Have you heard of a grazing food chain before? Yes! It has to do with grazing and a food chain.
But to understand a grazing food chain better, it is crucial that you understand the necessity of food for living organisms and the concept of the food chain.
Importance of food for living organisms
Food is essential for the survival of all living organisms which includes human beings as well. Every living being requires food to get their energy requirement satisfied.
Food gives us energy which enables us to do various activities. If there is no food available to an animal for a long time then it may not be able to run, hunt or do anything and would die eventually. Therefore food becomes a very important element in the ecosystem.
All living beings including humans have different food sources and food requirements. It sounds fascinating to know that different living beings have different food requirements, yet they are connected and somehow interdependent on each other.
For instance, a deer is dependent upon grass for survival but a lion is dependent upon that deer to satisfy its food requirements.
Food has an energy that flows through a food chain from one organism to another.
Now that you understand that food is the vital fuel for every functioning organism, let’s understand how every living organism is somehow connected to another organism for feeding itself through the food chain.
Understanding the food chain
A food chain is nothing but a series of food sources that explains the flow of energy and matter at different levels in an ecosystem. Through the food chain, we can understand who eats whom.
Unlike the food web, a food chain is a linear series that tells us the sequence of food being eaten by a living organism. A food chain is a total of different levels which are called trophic levels. At each trophic level, there is an organism and its food source.
For instance, a lion eats a jackal as his food. At this trophic level, both the food source and a food consumer are living organisms.
When food transfers from one trophic level to another trophic level some of the energy get dissipated in the process.
Transfer of energy can be understood by the 10% rule which states that only 10% of energy gets transferred from one topic level to another trophic level. The higher you go on a food chain, the less amount of energy will be present. So, for more energy intake, an organism can navigate to the lower level of the food chain.
Components of the food chain
A food chain consists of different components. It is a linear representation of interdependence between producers and consumers in an ecosystem.
A food chain has the following components –
- Producers – These are autotrophs that produce their food through photosynthesis usually. For example – plants and algae.
- Consumers- There are different types of consumers, as follows:
- Primary consumers – Consumers who directly eat producers are called primary consumers. They are herbivores. For example – dear and rabbit.
- Secondary consumers – Consumers who eat primary consumers are called secondary consumers. They are carnivores. For example – wild dogs and wolves.
- Tertiary consumers – These are consumers which eat secondary-level consumers. These are also carnivores or meat-eaters.
- Quaternary consumers/Apex predators – It refers to organisms who prey upon the tertiary consumers to obtain energy. An apex consumer can eat the producers as well which makes them omnivores. As these organisms are at the top of the food chain they are not preyed upon by any other organisms.
- Decomposers – It refers to the organism which decomposes dead matter such as dead bodies of organisms, dry leaves, etc. They strive on the dead matter at different consumer and producer levels. Examples of decomposers are earthworms and fungi.
Now that you are aware of the main components of a food chain, it is now easier to understand the different types of food chains and one of them is a Grazing food chain.
Types of the food chain
Some food chains start from green plants and end at the apex predator. While other food chains do not start from green plants. Interaction between food chains leads to the development of the food web.
There are two major types of food chains that are differentiated on the basis of the main source of energy. These food chains are, as follows:
- Grazing food chain
- Detritus food chain
Let’s have a deeper insight into the types of the food chain.
Understanding the grazing food chain
A grazing food chain starts from green plants as producers. Green plants use photosynthesis to convert energy from the sun for making their food. Green plants are then consumed by herbivores which are later consumed by carnivores.
In such kind of food chain, solar energy is very crucial. Autotrophs in these food chains are green plants. In the aquatic ecosystem, the grazing food chain is mainly present.
It can be classified into two categories which are –
- Predator food chain – It starts from green plants as producers and herbivores animals that consume green plants.
Herbivores are then killed by carnivorous animals to meet their food requirements.
There are two organisms involved in the Predator food chain which are called prey and predator.
- Parasitic food chain – It starts from herbivores who eat producer plants.
Rather than herbivores getting killed by carnivores, in the parasitic food chain, herbivores are infected by parasites. These parasites draw energy from herbivorous animals for survival.
Understanding the Detritus food chain
Food chains that are not heavily dependent upon the presence of sunlight are called a detritus food chain. In this chain, detritivores are found at the first trophic level.
In such food chains, primary consumers live on detritus or dead matter. Decomposers or detritivores draw energy from the dead and decaying matter thereby utilizing it to the fullest.
Predators eat detritivores at the later trophic level to meet their food requirements. Detritus food chains do not necessarily require photosynthesis as the basic source of energy.
This kind of food chain can be found in terrestrial as well as aquatic ecosystems. In deep oceans where sunlight is not available, it serves as the only way of the flow of energy.
Significance of the food chains
Many food chains constitute a food web. The interdependence of living organisms on one another can be understood by studying food chains.
Food chains describe the interdependence between living organisms. Change at any trophic level may reduce the demographics of organisms at the next level. Food chains help us to bring stability to the ecosystem.
At each trophic level, only 10% of energy is left. Through understanding the food chain we can find food sources, trace the loss of energy at each level and find a rich source of energy accordingly.
Through food chains, one can understand the features of the ecosystem around them. It also helps us to determine the hierarchy between living organisms based on their prey-predator status and trophic level.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Who discovered the grazing food chain?
The concept of the food chain was first introduced by Al-Jahiz around the 10th century. Though the concept was later popularized in 1927 after getting published in a book by Charles Elston.
- At which level in the detritus food chain, decomposers are found?
Decomposers are found at the first trophic level in the detritus food chain.
- Who are the primary consumers in the detritus food chain?
Primary consumers in the detritus food chain are Detritivores or decomposers. For example – bacteria and fungi.
- How is the parasitic food chain different from the predator food chain?
The major difference between both food chains is that in parasitic food chains herbivores are not killed by predatory species.
- What is the main source of energy in the grazing food chain?
The grazing food chain derives energy from the sun.