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FOOD CHAIN AND FOOD WEB

Food chain:
A food chain is a linear network of links in a food web starting from producer
organisms (such as grass or trees which use radiation from the sun to make their
food) and ending at apex predator species (like grizzly bears or killer whales),
detritivores (like earthworms or woodlice), or decomposer species (such as fungi or
bacteria). A food chain also shows how the organisms are related with each other by
the food they eat. Each level of a food chain represents a different trophic level. A
food chain differs from a food web, because the complex network of different
animals' feeding relations are aggregated and the chain only follows a direct, linear
pathway of one animal at a time. A common metric used to quantify food web
trophic structure is food chain length. In its simplest form, the length of a chain is
the number of links between a trophic consumer and the base of the web and the
mean chain length of an entire web is the arithmetic average of the lengths of all
chains in a food web.[1][2]
Food chains were first introduced by the African-Arab scientist and
philosopher Al-Jahiz in the 9th century and later popularized in a book published in
1927 by Charles Elton, which also introduced the food web concept.[3][4][5]

Food chain length


This food web of waterbirds from Chesapeake Bay is a network of food chains
Food chains are directional paths of trophic energy or, equivalently,
sequences of links that start with basal species, such as producers or fine organic
matter, and end with consumer organisms. [6]:370
The food chain's length is a continuous variable that provides a measure of
the passage of energy and an index of ecological structure that increases in value
counting progressively through the linkages in a linear fashion from the lowest to
the highest trophic (feeding) levels.[7] Food chains are often used in ecological
modeling (such as a three species food chain). They are simplified abstractions of
real food webs, but complex in their dynamics and mathematical implications.[8]
Ecologists have formulated and tested hypotheses regarding the nature of
ecological patterns associated with food chain length, such as increasing length
increasing with ecosystem size, reduction of energy at each successive level, or the
proposition that long food chain lengths are unstable.[7] Food chain studies have an
important role in ecotoxicology studies tracing the pathways and biomagnification
of environmental contaminants.[9]

Food chains vary in length from three to six or more levels. A food chain
consisting of a flower, a frog, a snake and an owl consists of four levels; whereas a
food chain consisting of grass, a grasshopper, a rat, a snake and finally a hawk
consists of five levels. Producers, such as plants, are organisms that utilize solar or
chemical energy to synthesize starch. All food chains must start with a producer. In
the deep sea, food chains centered on hydrothermal vents and cold seeps exist in
the absence of sunlight. Chemosynthetic bacteria and archaea use hydrogen sulfide
and methane from hydrothermal vents and cold seeps as an energy source (just as
plants use sunlight) to produce carbohydrates; they form the base of the food chain.
Consumers are organisms that eat other organisms. All organisms in a food chain,
except the first organism, are consumers.

Food chain:

What is food chain?


Every organism needs to obtain energy in order to live. For example, plants
get energy from the sun, some animals eat plants, and some animals eat other
animals.
A food chain is the sequence of who eats whom in a biological community (an
ecosystem) to obtain nutrition. A food chain starts with the primary energy source,
usually the sun or boiling-hot deep sea vents. The next link in the chain is an

organism that make its own food from the primary energy source -- an example is
photosynthetic plants that make their own food from sunlight (using a process
called photosynthesis) and chemosynthetic bacteria that make their food energy
from chemicals in hydrothermal vents. These are called autotrophs or primary
producers.

Trophic Levels:
The trophic level of an organism is the position it holds in a food chain.

Primary producers (organisms that make their own food from sunlight and/or
chemical energy from deep sea vents) are the base of every food chain these organisms are called autotrophs.
Primary consumers are animals that eat primary producers; they are also
called herbivores (plant-eaters).
Secondary consumers eat primary consumers. They are carnivores (meateaters) and omnivores (animals that eat both animals and plants).
Tertiary consumers eat secondary consumers.
Quaternary consumers eat tertiary consumers.

Food chains "end" with top predators, animals that have little or no natural
enemies.
When any organism dies, it is eventually eaten by detrivores (like vultures, worms
and crabs) and broken down by decomposers (mostly bacteria and fungi), and the
exchange of energy continues.
Some organisms' position in the food chain can vary as their diet differs. For
example, when a bear eats berries, the bear is functioning as a primary consumer.
When a bear eats a plant-eating rodent, the bear is functioning as a secondary
consumer. When the bear eats salmon, the bear is functioning as a tertiary
consumer (this is because salmon is a secondary consumer, since salmon eat
herring that eat zooplankton that eat phytoplankton, that make their own energy
from sunlight). Think about how people's place in the food chain varies - often
within a single meal.

Herbivore:

Carnivore:

Omnivores:

Food web:
A food web consists of all the food chains in a single ecosystem. Each living thing in
an ecosystem is part of multiple food chains. Each food chain is one possible path
that energy and nutrients may take as they move through the ecosystem. All of the
interconnected and overlapping food chains in an ecosystem make up a food web.

Trophic Levels

Organisms in food webs are grouped into categories called trophic levels. Roughly
speaking, these levels are divided into producers (first trophic level), consumers,
and decomposers (last trophic level).

Producers
Producers make up the first trophic level. Producers, also known as
autotrophs, make their own food and do not depend on any other organism for
nutrition. Most autotrophs use a process called photosynthesis to create food (a
nutrient called glucose) from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water.
Plants are the most familiar type of autotroph, but there are many other
kinds. Algae, whose larger forms are known as seaweed, are autotrophic.
Phytoplankton, tiny organisms that live in the ocean, are also autotrophs. Some
types of bacteria are autotrophs. For example, bacteria living in active volcanoes
use sulfur, not carbon dioxide, to produce their own food. This process is called
chemosynthesis.

Consumers
The next trophic levels are made up of animals that eat producers. These
organisms are called consumers.primary consumers are herbivores. Herbivores eat
plants, algae, and other producers. They are at the second trophic level. In a
grassland ecosystem, deer, mice, and even elephants are herbivores. They eat
grasses, shrubs, and trees. In a desert ecosystem, a mouse that eats seeds and
fruits is a primary consumer.
In an ocean ecosystem, many types of fish and turtles are herbivores that eat
algae and seagrass. In kelp forests, seaweeds known as giant kelp provide shelter
and food for an entire ecosystem. Sea urchins are powerful primary consumers in
kelp forests. These small herbivores eat dozens of kilograms (pounds) of giant kelp
every day.
Secondary consumers eat herbivores. They are at the third trophic level. In a
desert ecosystem, a secondary consumer may be a snake that eats a mouse. In the
kelp forest, sea otters are secondary consumers that hunt sea urchins as prey.
Tertiary consumers eat the secondary consumers. They are at the fourth
trophic level. In the desert ecosystem, an owl or eagle may prey on the snake.
There may be more levels of consumers before a chain finally reaches its top
predator. Top predators, also called apex predators, eat other consumers. They may
be at the fourth or fifth trophic level. They have no natural enemies except people.
Lions are apex predators in the grassland ecosystem. In the ocean, fish such as the
great white shark are apex predators. In the desert, bobcats and mountain lions are
top predators.

Consumers can be carnivores (animals that eat other animals) or omnivores


(animals that eat both plants and animals). Omnivores, like people, consume many
types of foods. People eat plants, such as vegetables and fruits. We also eat animals
and animal products, such as meat, milk, and eggs. We eat fungi, such as
mushrooms. We also eat algae, in edible seaweeds like nori (used to wrap sushi
rolls) and sea lettuce (used in salads). Bears are omnivores, too. They eat berries
and mushrooms, as well as animals such as salmon and deer.

Detritivores and Decomposers


Detritivores and decomposers make up the last part of food chains.
Detritivores are organisms that eat nonliving plant and animal remains. For
example, scavengers such as vultures eat dead animals. Dung beetles eat animal
feces.
Decomposers, like fungi and bacteria, complete the food chain. Decomposers
turn organic wastes, such as decaying plants, into inorganic materials, such as
nutrient-rich soil. They complete the cycle of life, returning nutrients to the soil or
oceans for use by autotrophs. This starts a whole new series of food chains.

Temperature rain forest food chain/web:

A food web (or food cycle) is the natural interconnection of food chains and
generally a graphical representation (usually an image) of what-eats-what in an
ecological community. Another name for food web is a consumer-resource system.
Ecologists can broadly lump all life forms into one of two categories called trophic
levels: 1) the autotrophs, and 2) the heterotrophs. To maintain their bodies, grow,
develop, and to reproduce, autotrophs produce organic matter from inorganic
substances, including both minerals and gases such as carbon dioxide. These
chemical reactions require energy, which mainly comes from the sun and largely by
photosynthesis, although a very small amount comes from hydrothermal vents and
hot springs. A gradient exists between trophic levels running from complete
autotrophs that obtain their sole source of carbon from the atmosphere, to
mixotrophs (such as carnivorous plants) that are autotrophic organisms that
partially obtain organic matter from sources other than the atmosphere, and
complete heterotrophs that must feed to obtain organic matter. The linkages in a
food web illustrate the feeding pathways, such as where heterotrophs obtain
organic matter by feeding on autotrophs and other heterotrophs. The food web is a
simplified illustration of the various methods of feeding that links an ecosystem into
a unified system of exchange. There are different kinds of feeding relations that can
be roughly divided into herbivory, carnivory, scavenging and parasitism. Some of

the organic matter eaten by heterotrophs, such as sugars, provides energy.


Autotrophs and heterotrophs come in all sizes, from microscopic to many tonnes from cyanobacteria to giant redwoods, and from viruses and bdellovibrio to blue
whales.

Difference between food chain and food web:

Main Difference:
The food chain and food web are different from each other because of complex network of
different animals feeding relations are aggregated and the food chain only follows a direct,
linear pathway of one animal at a time.

Food Chains VS Food Web

Food Chains:
Food chain is a model that shows flow of energy and nutrients from one organism to another
organism in an ecosystem. The length of a food chain depends upon the number of organisms. It
starts from producer species such as tress or grass and ending at apex predator species such as
grizzly bears or killer whales; detrivores such as earthworms or woodlice; or decomposer species
like fungi or bacteria. A food also shows the relation between organisms as who they are related
with each other by the food they eat. Plants and animals requires some type of food for survival.
Plant produce their own found via photosynthesis process. Since they produce their own food
they are called and producers while those organisms which do not produce their own food like
animals and humans are known as consumers.

Food web:
Food web or food cycle is the connection between food chains and what species eats what in an
ecological system. Food web also known as consumer-resource system. Most communities in
food web include various populations of producer organisms which are eaten by any number of
consumer populations. For example, the green crab is a consumer and decomposer. In food web,
producers are eaten by many different consumers, and most consumers onward are eaten by more
than one predator. For example, a squirrel eats seeds, fruits, and nuts. The squirrel man be eaten
by a fox or a raccoon. Fox also eats mice and grasshoppers , etc. Most organisms are part of
several food chains. A food web starts with the producers in ecosystem and then branches off into
interconnected food chains that show who eats whom in ecosystem.

Differences:
Following are the main differences between food chain and food web.

Food chain is a single linear pathway through which food energy and nutrients travels in
the ecosystem while food web is number of interconnected food chains through which
energy and nutrients travels in the ecosystem.

In food chains, usually member of high trophic level feed upon a single type of organism
of lower trophic level while in food web members of higher trophic level feed upon many
organisms of lower trophic level.

In food chains, separate and isolated food chains increases the instability of the
ecosystem. In food web, stability of the ecosystem increases by the presence of complex
food webs.

Food chains have no effect on improving the adaptability and competitiveness of the
organisms while more complex food webs improves the adaptability and competitiveness
of the organisms.

A food web consists of many food chains. A food chain only follows just one path as
animals find food. eg: A hawk eats a snake, which has eaten a frog, which has eaten a
grasshopper, which has eaten grass. A food web shows the many different paths plants
and animals are connected.

Conclusion:
What we eat for lunch or dinner is part of a food chain. A food chain shows how
plants and animals get energy from each other. It starts with energy from the sun. A food
chain often ends with a predator or an omnivore like humans. Each plant and animals in
the chain is important.
Many food chains make up a food web. Predators at the end of the food chain die
and are eaten by decomposers, which provide soil for producers. Whether it is a food
chain or food web, plants and animals need each other. They depend on each other for
survival.