The Food Chain
The food chain is the order in which animals and plants eat each other in order to survive. Every living creature needs to eat other creatures below it. Every ecosystem has a different food chain, depending on which animals and plants live there.
The lowest part of the food chain are the plants. They are called producers because they produce their own food using the sunlight's energy. This process is called photosynthesis. Animals are the consumers of the food chain. They eat other plants and animals.
Some animals only eat plants. Among this group of herbivores are rabbits, mice and cows. Carnivores are animals that eat other animals, like wolves, foxes or lions.
Each food chain has a predator, the strongest animal that is not eaten by others. Hawks or polar bears are such predators that dominate their habitats.
Typical food chain
Many creatures belong to more than one food chain. Grass, for example, is eaten by many other animals as well as insects. Food chains that are connected to each other are called food webs.
When an animal dies it is eaten up by worms, bacteria and other organisms. These so-called decomposers break down animals and plants into small parts and enrich soil so that other plants can grow better. The nutrients of dead animals and plants are converted back to the soil so that plants can use them again.
The balance of plants and animals within a food chain is determined by nature. For example, if there are too many zebras in a tropical habitat many of them will die because they cannot get enough food to feed on. This also means that there is less food for predators, like lions, to eat. And when there are fewer lions the zebra population will grow again.
How plants and animals are related in a food chain
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- bacteria = very small living things, some of which cause illness and disease
- balance = equal amounts of something
- carnivore = animal that eat the meat of other animals
- connect = link
- consumer = user
- convert = change
- creature = something living
- decompose = to break down into many very small parts
- depend on = affected by other things
- determine = decide
- dominate = control
- ecosystem = animal and plants that live in a certain area and how they exist in their environment
- enrich = to make better
- habitat = living area
- hawk = large bird that hunts and eats other, smaller birds
- herbivore = animal that only eats plants
- nutrient = chemical or food that gives plants and animals what they need to grow
- organism = animal, plant, person or any other living thing
- photosynthesis = when green plants turn sunlight into energy
- predator = animal that kills and eats all other animals in a region
- soil = the top layer of earth; on which plants can grow
- survive = to live on