food chain

Master yourself on Food chains: types, Definition, and facts

Every living being is different from one another. This is the reason why the eating habits of every living being is different. The difference in food habits leads to the formation of food chains.

Firstly, for understanding food chain definition, you should know about Food webs. Interconnected food chains are food webs.

In other words, you can say that food is a cluster of many food chains.

Food web
Food web

So, now by reading the above para you might have an idea of what is a food chain.

In other words, the food chain definition can be the transfer of energy and matter from one organism to another in the form of food.

food chain
food chain

Say, a plant manufactures its food by using sunlight, a deer comes and eats the grass.

Further, a lion eats the deer and some beetle eats the feces of the lion. This is one of the food chain examples.

Suppose the lion eats the beetle, then the food chain will be different. This is represented in the picture above.

Trophic levels in the food chains

Trophic levels in food chains

There are mainly three levels in the food chain pyramid, the first level is producer, then comes the consumer and the last one is the decomposer.

If you consider the above example of the food chain, the grass is producer, the deer and lion are consumers and the beetle is decomposers.


Producers are the only one in the food chain who makes their food. This is why producers only include different plants and one-celled organisms. Producers are also known as autotrophs for the same reason.

Trees or plants are the producers

The process that most of the autotrophs (mainly plants) use to make food is photosynthesis.

Other microorganisms like Algae, phytoplankton, and bacteria make their food by using the process of chemosynthesis.


Types of consumers in food chain
Types of Consumers There are three groups of consumers in a food chain

After this, comes the consumers, they don’t make their food rather they consume the food which others produce. There are three categories of consumers.

The first one is primary consumers or Herbivores. They consume the food directly from the producers.

This category includes animals like deer, rabbits, giraffe, snails, and many others.

Then comes the secondary consumers who eat the primary consumers. Examples include cats, dogs, frogs, and other small carnivores.

After this, at the top are the tertiary consumers who eat the secondary as well as primary consumers.

The other name for tertiary consumers is top predators. Examples can be lions, foxes, anaconda, and bigger carnivores.

If we take a look closely, these consumers can be herbivores or omnivores as well. Consider a case, a man drinks milk produced by a mammal such as a cow. In this case, the man can be carnivore, herbivore, or omnivores.


Different examples of decomposers
Different examples of decomposers

The last stage of the food chain is decomposers or detritivores. They eat the dead parts or waste materials of the different living beings.

For example, scavengers or vultures feed on dead remains of different animals and dung beetles eat animal feces.

They are helpful to nature, as they help in the decomposition of remains and complete the life cycle.

Length of food chains

The length of a food chain cannot be fixed, it is dependent on the ecosystem of the region.

This means, 3 to 4 members can also form a food chain and it can also be as long as every other species present on earth.

Food chains are often used in ecological modelling as they are a single strain in every food web.

Ecologists have tested hypotheses on the nature of ecological patterns and food chains and concluded that the length of food chains have unstable nature.

The length of the food chain is important as the amount of energy transferred varies and it affects the outer environment adversely.

Characteristics of the food chains

  • Food chains are essential because they give a link or relationship between every living being in the ecosystem. In other words, they show that every other being in nature is vital in its place.
  • This also shows that if a part of the food chain gets extinct, it can adversely affect the system. You can picture it by considering a pile of books. From a pile of books, if you remove a book the whole pile will lose its balance.
  • Food chains also help scientists study the ecosystem more efficiently.
  • In a food chain if an animal is at the 2nd level in the food chain, then it can be present at the 3rd level or any level in other food chains. These relations are easily visible in food webs rather than food chains.

Types of the food chains

Food chains are of two types, viz, Gazing food chain and detritus food chain. Let us start by knowing each of them in detail.

Gazing Food Chains

This form of the food chain is solely dependent on the radiation of solar energy. It starts with green plants and includes every tropic level of the food chain.

Photosynthesis is the process which helps in obtaining energy at the lowest level.

This form of the food chain is the main source of energy in the aquatic or ocean food chain.

In the terrestrial food chain, this form is secondary in importance.

Gazing Food Chain
Gazing Food Chain

The above picture is an example of Gazing Food Chain. The caterpillar eats the cabbage (producer) and at last, the Thrush eats the caterpillar.

This is beneficial because it always adds energy to the ecosystem. These food chains also fix inorganic nutrients in nature. It has two subcategories, viz, predator, and parasitic chain.

In the predator food chain, one animal consumes another. The animal which eats is the predator and the one which is being eaten is prey.

In parasitic chains, one animal parasites the other. This means that one animal shares or steals the food generated by other animals.

Detritus food chains

This kind of food chain starts from dead organisms or it’s organic materials.

The dead organic materials are decomposed by decomposers or detritus. This is very important in balancing ecology.

After some time these decomposers are eaten by other predators. In this food chain, the leftover or excreted products are eaten by other organisms.

Detritus food chain
Detritus food chain

The above picture is an example of the Detritus food chain. In this, the dead leaves(producer) are being eaten by woodlouse and at last, the Blackbird eats the woodlouse.

The Detritus food chain has a continuous flow of energy. The Source of energy in this food chain starts from dead organisms.

Detritus food chain is formed in almost energy different types of habitat. This does not depends on solar power for energy.

Food chains vs Food webs

Food chains are a part of food webs, or we can say that food chain and food web are related to each other. This means food webs are a complex mixture of many food chains. Let us know about the difference between these two.

Food chains versus Food webs
Food ChainFood Webs
In this, the energy flows through a single line.In this, the flow of energy takes place through more complex interconnected food chains that form an ecosystem.
Food chain is only a single line.Food web is a mess of interconnected food chains.
It is instable in nature.It is very stable.
If a single group of species is removed, the whole chain gets disturbed.If a single kind of species is removed, it does not affect the whole system so much.
They only contain 4-5 levels.They contain numerous levels.
Difference between food chain and food web


After this, you know how energy flows from one organism to another in a food chain. We can say that the food chain is like a pillar in the ecosystem.

A single instability in it can cause huge destruction to our mother nature.

The food chain also helps us to know the importance of the existence of every living being on the earth.

Frequently asked question

How are food chains related to food webs?

The relation between food chain and food web is quite simple. Food web is a collection of numerous food chains.
In other words, food chains are a single unit for the construction of food webs.

Why do almost all food chains start with plants?

This happens as plants are the only being on this planet which produces its food using different forms of energy.

Give an example of food chain.

An example of the food chain can be, a rabbit eats carrots or other plants. Hyena eats the rabbit and a lion eats the Hyena. Then somehow the lion died and the body is decomposed by vultures and decomposing bacteria.

What are the types of food chains?

There are mainly two types of food chains that depend on the environment are the source of energy.
The types are the Gazing food chain and the detritus food chain.

What is the first organism to start a food chain?

The organisms which start a food chain are called, producers. They obtain their food by manufacturing using various sources of energy.

What are animals called in food chain?

The animals in the food chain are mainly at the secondary level and are known as consumers.

People also ask

Which was the first fast food chain?

The first fast food chain was White Castle established in Chicago during 1921.

What is the largest fast food chain in China?

The largest fast food chain in China is KFC.

Which fast food chain used the advertising slogan ‘you deserve a break today’?

This slogan is used by the one of the largest fast food chain in China, viz, McDonald’s.

Which fast food chain has the most stores worldwide with a total of 41053?

Subway has the most stores worldwide with a total of 41053.

Which fast food chain has most stores in the world?

Subway start fast food chain which has the most number of stores in the world.

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Great article Kashish !! Keep Going !!

Aparna Yadav


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