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What is the Food Chain?

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All living things on earth need energy to survive. Plants get their energy from the soil, water and the sun. Animals get their energy from eating plants or eating other animals. A food chain shows how all living things receive their energy, and how that energy passes from one living thing to another. Every food chain has "Producers", "Consumers" and "Decomposers".

Plants are at the very beginning of the food chain because they can make their own energy. Have you ever wondered why plants need water and sunlight? Well now you know it's so they can make their own food! This process is called photosynthesis. Because plants can make their own food, they are known as "Producers" in the food chain.

Animals that eat producers, or plants, are called "Consumers". Consumers use the energy that the producers created. There are two major types of consumers: ones that only eat plants, and ones that eat plants and animals. Animals that only eat plants are called herbivores. Animals that only eat other animals are called carnivores.

The other two groups of consumers are omnivores, which eat both plants and animals, and scavengers, which eat dead animals. After the scavengers are done the "Decomposers" take over finish all that is left of a dead organism.

An example of a food chain starts with a tree that got its energy from the soil, sun and water. A caterpillar who eats the leaves on the tree is an example of an herbivore, which eats only the plant for energy. A bird who eats the caterpillar as well as berries on a bush is an example of a omnivore. A cat, which eats the bird, is a carnivore. An example of a scavenger is a vulture, which eats dead animals, and worms are decomposers, which would break down the dead animal carcass into the soil.

(by Mya Kagan)

Exploration

Can you think of examples for the producers and consumers in a food chain? Ask a parent to help!

Further Information

Because animals usually not only feed on one another, animal food chains are interconnected. Many food chains that have common consumers are called "food webs."