The food chain is probably one of the simplest connections between organisms, established on the basis of feeding habits. Food is probably the most crucial element needed for survival and numerous natural processes are based on the struggle for energy obtained through the consumption of nutrients.
Ecology examines the relations between organisms in an ecosystem. The relationship between predators and prey is represented through the so-called food chain.
The food chain consists of separate units. Each coming unit feeds on the preceding one. A group of many food chains is called a food web.
The concept was presented for the first time in 1927. Food chains are important in terms of ecology since these can be used to describe the manner in which energy is transferred from one organism to the next. Organisms that appear in the beginning of the chain are a source of energy for the others.
A simple example of a food chain involves grass, a goat and a wolf. The grass is the first unit in the food chain. Goats eat this grass. Sometimes, wolves manage to attack and kill some of the goats. Wolves feed on them, being the last unit in this food chain.
The first organism to appear in the food chain is called a producer. Most procures are plants that get eaten by herbivorous animals. Herbivorous animals are named first level consumers. Further in the chain, the first level consumer turns into food for a carnivorous animal, which in the case is called a second level consumer.
Keep in mind that only a tenth of the energy of each level is transferred to the next. A food chain cannot be endless. It usually contains no more than three to four units.
Consumers manage to produce energy through the absorption of water, minerals and carbon dioxide. They rely on the process of photosynthesis to turn inorganic substances into organic matter like carbohydrates, proteins and vitamins.
The food chain is actually a closed process. Upon their death microorganisms decompose the bodies of animals. This process brings us back to the process in which plants start producing food and energy in the beginning of the chain.
Keep in mind that one food chain could become a part of another one. While grazing on grass, a deer could swallow small animals and insects that could otherwise be second level consumers. All these intricate relationships between the various organisms form a food web.
The primary function of an eco system is to ensure the transfer of energy and substances. The passage of energy from one part of the eco system to another happens in the form of food chains. Only a small part of the original energy passes from one level to another. The low efficiency of energy utilization forces organisms to feed constantly, thus powering numerous food chains.
Sources of information:
The Encyclopedia of Earth