What is a food chain?

Food chain and food web lesson simplified

A food chain is a sequence of organisms through which energy and nutrients move as they are consumed and excreted. The number of steps in a food chain varies from two to a few. In the simplest case, there are only two steps: one organism (the producer) produces food for another (the consumer).

Food chains differ according to the environment they represent. For example, there are different food chains in oceans, deserts and rainforests.

In biology, a food chain is a linear network of links in a food web starting from producer organisms and ending at apex predator species, detritivores and decomposers. A food chain also demonstrates how organisms are related to one another by the food they consume.

A food web is a more complicated system than a food chain, with many different species interacting with each other in a variety of ways. Food webs are discussed below.

What are trophic levels in a food chain?

Trophic levels are the steps or links shown in the food chain. This shows the food relationship among the species.

The strength of these relationships determines how sensitive an ecosystem is to change — if all species in an ecosystem rely on each other equally for survival, then if one species declines or disappears the whole system can collapse.

Food chain definition

What is the definition for food chain?

A food chain is a linear sequence that begins with a green plant and represents the flow of energy from one living organism to the next. It shows the flow of energy from one living organism to other.

Food chain is a pathway of organisms in which each member gets its energy from the previous one. Each member is eaten by another and so on.

A food chain is a series of organisms that get their energy from food. Each organism in the chain gets energy from the next organism in the chain, until they reach the top of the chain where they are eaten by a predator. Every living thing needs to eat other living things to survive; otherwise, they will die.

Food chain example

A simple example of a food chain is grass→cow→human, where the grass is the primary producer (also called autotrophs), cows are herbivores and humans are carnivores (they eat other animals).

What is the importance of a food chain?

The importance of a food chain is that it helps us understand how animals eat, and how they get their energy.

It also helps us understand how different species are related to each other. A food chain is a sequence of organisms that connect through their feeding relationships. It shows how energy and nutrients travel through an ecosystem. Each organism in a food chain depends on another organism for its survival.

The food chain is an essential part of the Earth’s ecosystem. It’s what allows organisms to survive, and it works in a very simple way.

The energy stored in food (generated by green plants utilizing solar energy) is transferred to other food chain consumers. All of the links in a food chain contribute significantly to environmental stability by ensuring that organisms survive within their environment. Food chains ensure organisms’ survival within their environment because they provide an efficient way for organisms to get what they need to live and grow.

Food chain and food web lesson simplified

In a food chain, energy is passed from one organism to another in a continuous process. Green plants utilize solar energy to create carbohydrates and other substances that are consumed by herbivores (plant-eaters). Herbivores are then consumed by carnivores (meat-eaters), who are then consumed by omnivores (animals that eat both plants and meat). The omnivore’s feces contain energy that is absorbed by bacteria and other organisms in the soil. This energy is used to create new nutrients, which are then absorbed by plants and recycled back into the food chain.

Introduction of parts of a food chain

How to draw a food chain?

First, decide what you want to draw—a simple diagram or something more detailed. You’ll need to think about how many animals/plants/organisms you want to include in your drawing, how many levels of the food chain you want to show.

  • First link should be started with a producer like a green plant or algae
  • Each level should be connected with arrows.
  • Arrow head of the arrow shows the energy flowing through the food chain
  • Arrow heads should be pointed from prey to predator or else from plants to plant-eaters.


What is a Producer in a food chain?

The producer is the first link in the food chain. It produces energy through photosynthesis using sunlight and carbon dioxide. This process creates oxygen and organic matter. The producers such as green plants, Algae, phytoplankton in ocean can produce their own food. Therefore, they are known as autotrophs.

Green plant

A green plant is a living organism that can make its own food through photosynthesis. This process takes place in leaves, which are the parts of the plant that collect sunlight by chlorophyll pigments and use it to convert carbon dioxide from the air into sugar. Sugar is stored in a plant’s roots, stems and leaves until it is needed for growth or energy.


Algae are a diverse group of simple, mostly single-celled or multicellular, photosynthetic organisms that lack stems and roots.

There are thousands of different types of algae, but all of them share some basic characteristics. Algae are photosynthetic organisms that can live either in water or on land. They’re typically found in freshwater lakes and ponds, but they can also grow in saltwater environments like oceans.

Algae come in all shapes and sizes, with some being single-celled organisms and others being multicellular plants. The most common types of algae are green and brown algae, which reproduce by both asexual and sexual reproduction methods.

Algae are also important for protection of environment. There are many different types of algae that people use for food, medicine, cosmetics, and other purposes.


Divided in several ways

Consumers based on food type


Herbivores are species that consume exclusively plants as their diet. Common herbivores are deer, elephant, giraffe, goat and rabbit.


Carnivores are animals that solely consume the flesh of other animals as their food. Common examples are fox, eagle, kingfisher, tiger and owl.


Omnivores are animals that consume both plants and animals as their food. Cat. Dog. Crow, pig, hen are common examples.

Consumers based on the trophic level of the food chain

Consumers are found in a food chain from second trophic level onwards. All consumers are animals.

Consumers are heterotrophs. That means they depend on plants and other animals. They depend on plants directly or indirectly.

Primary consumer

The primary consumers are the organisms that eat the producers. They use the organic matter produced by the producers to build their own bodies. These organisms are called heterotrophs because they do not produce their own energy. Instead, they consume other organisms.

Secondary consumer

The organism that consumes the primary consumer is known as the secondary consumer. This organism is called a carnivore because it consumes another animal. Carnivores are also known as predators. This step can be an omnivore as well.

Tertiary consumer

Tertiary consumers eat secondary consumers and get energy. Carnivores or omnivores are found in this step.

Top of the food chain is represented by apex predators in most situations.

What is food web?

Food webs show how different organisms in an ecosystem depend on one another for survival. A typical example is a web with grasses at the bottom, rabbits above them, foxes above the rabbits, and eagles at the top. Each group gets its energy from sources at earlier levels — grasses get their energy directly from sunlight through photosynthesis, while foxes eat rabbits that eat grasses.

Food webs are similar but more complex because they include both plants and animals. In addition, many different kinds of organisms may be involved in making up one food web. For example, there could be several different types of plants along with their predators and parasites.

Food chain vs Food web – How is a food web different from a food chain?

A food chain is a linear relationship between an organism and its food source. Animals are at the top of the food chain and rely on plants, which are at the bottom of the food chain, for energy. A food web is a more complicated relationship between organisms and their environment. In it, each species can play multiple roles: predator, prey, or producer.

A food web is a complex network that connects all the species in an ecosystem. It is provided many possible ways that energy can flow from one organism to another.

A food chain is one of the many possible ways that energy can flow from one organism to another.

The environment affects how a food chain works. For example, during a drought, plants may not be able to produce enough energy for animals to survive on; so the number of animals at each level in the food chain will go down, which means less consumers at every level.

A food web does a major role in keeping balance of the ecosystem without affecting the environmental conditions. Each organism has two or more feeding points. This means that the same organism may appear in several places on the web at once.

Desert food chain

Food chain and food web lesson simplified

The desert is a place where life is not as easy to find. There are few plants and animals in the desert, but there are still many animals that live there. The food chain in the desert is different from others because it is more difficult for animals to find food and water.

Desert food chains can be simple or complex, depending on what type of desert they are in. In a typical desert food chain, the main source of energy is sunlight, which is captured by plants like cacti and grasses. The plants then use this energy to produce sugars and other nutrients, which they feed to herbivores like lizards and rabbits. Herbivores have adapted to eating sand by having long snouts and digging feet so they can burrow into the ground looking for roots and tubers that are buried underground. The herbivores then eat the plants and provide energy for carnivores like foxes and wolves, who eat them.

Desert food chains are made up of three trophic levels: producers, primary consumers and secondary consumers.

The first trophic level is made up of plants that can photosynthesize, meaning they produce their own food from sunlight. Plants in the desert include cacti and other succulents, as well as grasses that grow after seasonal rains.

The second trophic level is composed of animals that eat plants or other animals. In the desert, this includes small mammals like kangaroos and rodents, reptiles such as lizards and snakes, birds like owls and vultures, amphibians such as frogs and toads, insects like caterpillars and grasshoppers, arachnids like spiders, centipedes and scorpions.

The third trophic level is made up of carnivores that eat either plants or animals. In the desert this includes birds of prey such as eagles and hawks; large mammals like foxes; insects such as dragonflies; arachnids like ticks; ants; bees.

Desert food web

Desert food webs are very simple. They are made up of plants and animals that live in the desert. The plants that grow in a desert are usually cacti and other succulents, because they can store water for long periods of time. Animals that live in a desert include herbivores like rabbits, rodents, and insects. The carnivores in this ecosystem are birds of prey who eat these animals.

Desert food webs represent the complex relationships between the different organisms that live in deserts. These webs are made up of animals, plants, and insects. They all play an important role in the ecosystem by providing food for each other. It interconnects other food chains seen in the desert environment.

Ocean food chain

The ocean food chain is the process by which energy from the sun is transferred to living things in the ocean.

The top level is the primary producers—plankton, algae, and other tiny organisms that produce their own food by photosynthesis. These primary producers are eaten by secondary consumers—fish and crustaceans—which are then eaten by tertiary consumers like sharks and seals. Tertiary consumers’ bodies get broken down into nutrients that support the growth of plants (like seaweed) which in turn become food for the next level of consumers: omnivores like penguins and sea lions.

The first step in this process is when sunlight hits phytoplankton, which are single-celled plants. These plants use photosynthesis to turn carbon dioxide and water into sugars and oxygen.

When these phytoplankton die, they sink down to the bottom of the ocean, where they become food for animals called zooplankton (which are small animals). The zooplankton eat the phytoplankton. It also starts with photosynthetic algae (which use energy from the sun to make food) and other plants. These plants are eaten by herbivores, which are then eaten by carnivores / omnivores.

Ocean food web

A food web is a diagram that illustrates the relationships between organisms in an ecosystem and their place within it. no one species controls the ocean ecosystem: it’s a complex web of interactions between many different species.

In a food web, producers are at the bottom of the diagram, and then consumers appear above them. Producers are plants and algae that use photosynthesis to make food for themselves, while consumers are animals that eat those plants and algae.

Rain forest food chain

Rain forests are located in the tropics, and they are home to many species of plants, animals, insects and fungi.

In the rain forest, there is a very specific set of conditions that supports the food chain.

The rain forest food chain consists of producers, consumers and decomposers. Producers produce their own food through photosynthesis. Consumers consume other organisms for energy. Decomposers break down dead plant and animal matter into nutrients that can be used by plants and animals again.

There are many different kinds of trees in a rain forest. Some trees are big and tall, whereas other trees are small and short.

The birds fly from tree to tree eating the fruit from those trees, which helps spread the seeds. In a rain forest, there are many different types of animals.

Animals include monkeys, who eat bananas and other fruits that grow on trees as well as insects like ants or beetles (which they catch with their hands), lizards (who eat bugs), snakes (who eat mice), frogs (who eat insects), ants (who eat other insects), bees (who make honey), butterflies (who pollinate flowers by spreading pollen), beetles (who eat dead leaves), spiders (who catch flies), dragonflies (who eat mosquitoes) etc…

Rain forest food web

The rain forest food web is one of the most complex and diverse ecosystems on earth. It’s a network of food chains, where animals eat plants, which are eaten by other animals.

In the rain forest, there are many layers to this food web—each layer has multiple species that feed each other as they try to survive in one of the most biodiverse places on Earth.

A food web in a rainforest represents how many different species are dependent on one another, and it can be thought of as a diagram that shows who eats whom. In a rain forest, there are many different types of organisms that live in various niches and play different roles in the ecosystem.

The most common type of food web is called a predator-prey relationship (or predation). In this type of web, there are different predators and prey. The predator eats other animals, and those animals are eaten by other animals. One example is a spider eating flies. Another example is an owl eating mice or rabbits.

Common questions about food chains and food webs

What is a primary producer in a food chain?

A primary producer is a plant that generates its own food. A food chain begins with a primary producer, which uses photosynthesis to convert light energy into chemical energy and store it in organic compounds. These plants then become the base of the food chain, where they are consumed by herbivores or omnivores.

The primary producers are usually plants, but in some ecosystems, such as coral reefs and kelp forests, algae can be primary producers as well.

What are decomposers in a food web?

Decomposers are a critical part of any food web. They break down organic matter, which allows it to be reused by other organisms.

Decomposers are often bacteria and fungi, which feed on dead animals and plants. These organisms help fertilize the soil and release nutrients back into the ecosystem so they can be used by other plants, animals, or other organisms.

A decomposer, in general, is an organism that breaks down other organisms or their waste products.

Importance of detritivores

Organisms that consume dead organic materials are known as detritivores.

The importance of detritivores in the ecosystem is immense. They break down dead organic matter into smaller pieces and recycle nutrients for use by living organisms. Animal detritivores include earthworms, snails, and beetles. Plant detritivores include fungi and bacteria.

Decomposers and detritivores compared

Decomposers feed on organic matter. Common examples are bacteria and fungi.

Detritivores usually decompose the remains of the plants and animals. Snail and earthworm are two examples for this.

Why are mushrooms important to the food chain?

Mushrooms are an important part of the food chain. They help decompose organic material, and they also provide nutrients to larger organisms like birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles.

Mushrooms are plants, but they are not like other plants. They do not have roots, leaves or stems. Instead, mushrooms grow out of the ground in a short time and then stop growing.

Mushrooms often grow near trees on forest floors or in grassy areas near trees or shrubs in forests and grasslands. Some mushrooms grow underground where they cannot be seen easily.

Fungi are found all over the world and play a vital role in the function of ecosystems, particularly in forests and grasslands. They are also very important in agriculture and horticulture, helping to break down organic matter in soils.

There are many different types of fungus: some live on dead plants or animals (decomposers), others may be parasites or cause disease in humans and animals, while a few are beneficial for humans by producing antibiotics or vitamins.

Are humans at the top of the food chain?

Humans are not at the top of the food chain. Humans are not apex predators.

The top of the food chain is occupied by what is called an apex predator—an animal that has no predators of its own because it is so powerful and dangerous to other animals. Apex predators are typically carnivores such as lions and sharks. They eat whatever they want from the bottom of their food chain without being eaten themselves.

The food chain is a hierarchy of organisms that depend on each other for survival. In fact, most of us are herbivores or omnivores, which means that we typically eat plants and animals.

A food chain starts with plants as producers, which are then eaten by herbivores (plant-eaters). Herbivores are then eaten by carnivores (meat-eaters), who eat other carnivores.

What animal is at the top of the food chain?

The top of the food chain is occupied by animals that are carnivorous, or meat-eaters. These animals are at the top of their food chains because they can sustain themselves by eating other animals. They have sharp teeth and claws, and a powerful jaw to bite their prey with.

In most cases, this is a large predator like a lion or tiger. These predators are able to eat many different types of prey, and they keep their populations in check. That gives other animals a chance to thrive, too.

This predator is often known as apex predator.

How does energy flow through a food chain?

The flow of energy through the food chain is a process that involves the movement of energy from one organism to another in a series of steps.

Energy is passed from one organism to another through a series of steps. The first organism gets its energy from photosynthesis, which means it can make its own food. The second organism gets its energy by eating the first, and so on.

Not all organisms are able to get their own energy though photosynthesis. Some organisms must get their energy by eating other organisms. These organisms are called primary consumers, and they are eaten by secondary consumers, who are then eaten by tertiary consumers. Eventually, the last consumer will die without any other organisms eating them.

How sunlight (energy) is transferred to animals

The flow of energy through the food chain is a concept that describes how living things get their energy. The system starts with the sun, which provides light energy to plants. Plants use this light energy to synthesize glucose (sugar) and release oxygen as a waste product. Animals then eat the plants and convert that glucose into cellular energy. This cellular energy is stored in fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

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Anuradhika Lakmali

Anuradhika Lakmali is a co-founder of Science A Plus learning network. She is working as a government teacher and has interest in chemistry, biology, phisics and self development.