Food Chain

November 24, 2012 2:53 am

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Food Chain
A tiny insect nibbles on some leaves. The insect skims over a lake. A little fish swimming below spots the insect on top of the water. The fish zooms up and eats the insect.
Later, a slightly larger fish eats the little fish. Then, the slightly larger fish gets eaten by a really big fish. You are in a boat on the lake fishing. You catch the big fish, cook it, and eat it for dinner.
This is a food chain in action.
WHAT IS A FOOD CHAIN?
A food chain is the way energy goes from one living thing to another through food. Plants are the first step in most food chains.
Plants use the energy in sunlight to make their own food. Plants store the energy in their leaves and stems. Plants are called primary producers in food chains.
Animals eat the plants that use the Sun’s energy to grow. Animals are called consumers. Animals that eat plants are primary consumers. Animals that eat other animals are secondary consumers. Animals store the energy in their bodies.
Energy flows from plants to bigger and bigger animals through the steps of eating and being eaten. Each part of the food chain is directly connected to the other, just like the links in a chain.
WHAT IS A FOOD WEB?
A food web is made of many food chains in a community of plants and animals. There are many tiny animals near the beginning of a food web. There are fewer but larger animals higher up in a food web. There are many more insects than fish in a food web. There are also more small fish than big fish. Human beings are at the very top of the food web. No animals are higher up to make us their steady diet.
Decomposers play important roles in some food webs. Bacteria and fungi are decomposers. Decomposers eat dead plants and animals and cause them to rot and decay. They also eat animal wastes. They break things down into chemical parts called nutrients. The nutrients go back into the soil. Plants take up water and nutrients to make food. Nutrients move through food webs over and over again.
HOW THE SUN’S ENERGY GETS INTO FOOD
The Sun provides the energy that starts the whole process. A plant uses sunlight to make its own food. The energy is stored in the plant. An insect eats the plant. The insect stores the energy in its body. Then the energy is transferred to a fish that eats the insect. When you eat the fish, your body gets the energy stored in that fish.
When you eat salad, fruits, and potatoes, you take in the energy stored in these plants. When you eat fish, beef, or chicken, you take in the energy stored in these animals. When you eat your dinner, your body is getting energy that first came from the Sun. You use this energy to do your schoolwork. You use this energy to run and play.
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