Food chains


Food chains connect all organisms. If a creature's food source is changed in any way, the creature's life changes too.
You can see how the feeding relationships between animals, plants and humans work.
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Animals and plants are linked by food chains

Animals get energy and nutrients by eating other animals or plants.
For example
  • caterpillars eat leaves
  • small birds eat caterpillars
  • owls eat small birds
  • eagles eat owls
These links between animals and plants are called food chains.
Nearly all food chains start with a green plant.

Changes to food chains

If one part of a food chain alters, the whole food chain is affected. For example, if a disease suddenly wiped out caterpillars, it would affect owls, eagles and many other animals.
Most animals and plants are part of more than one food chain.
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Producers and consumers

Plants are called producers because they make their own food. They are at the start of a food chain.
Animals are called consumers because they eat other plants and animals.
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Prey and predators

A predator is an animal that eats other animals.
The animals that predators eat are called prey.
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Texts and pictures from:

More activities about Food chains

The order that animals feed on other plants and animals is called a food chain.
Do you think you can put a food chain together?
Click below to give it a try and learn why every animal within a food chain is so important.

Play the game
Play the game

Parts of the Food Chain

Plants are called producers. This is because they produce their own food! They do this by using light energy from the Sun, carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil to produce food - in the form of glucouse/sugar.
The process is called photosynthesis. Click on the image below to learn about photosynthesis.
external image photosynthchain.gif

Animals are called consumers. This is because they cannot make their own food, so they need to consume (eat) plants and/or animals.
There are 3 groups of consumers.
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Animals that eat only plants.
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Animals that eat only animals.
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Animals that eat both animals AND plants. Humans are also omnivores!
external image button_decomposer.gifBacteria and fungi are decomposers. They eat decaying matter - dead plants and animals and in the process they break them down and decompose them When that happens, they release nutrients and mineral salts back into the soil - which then will be used by plants! Click on the left-hand image to learn more.

FOOD CHAINS QUIZ: test yourself

Bigger Food Chains from:
Here's another food chain, with a few more animals. It starts with acorns, which are eaten by mice. The mice are eaten by snakes, and then finally the snakes are eaten by hawks. At each link in the chain, energy is being transferred from one animal to another.
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There can be even more links to any food chain. Here another animal is added. It goes

Grass to grasshopper to mouse to snake to hawk.external image simplechain3.gif

There is actually even more to this chain. After a hawk dies, fungi (like mushrooms) and other decomposers break down the dead hawk, and turn the remains of the hawk into nutrients, which are released into the soil. The nutrients (plus sun and water) then cause the grass to grow.
It's a full circle of life and energy!!

external image fullchain.gif

So food chains make a full circle, and energy is passed from plant to animal to animal to decomposer and back to plant! There can be many links in food chains but not TOO many. If there are too many links, then the animal at the evnd would not get enough energy.

Play another food chain game