5 Examples of Food Chain Interactions

5 Examples of Food Chain Interactions in Various Ecosystems

Examples of food chain are; 5-Level Desert Food Chain with Quaternary Consumer, Producer-Dominated Forest Food Chain, Tundra Food Chain, Grassland Food Chain, and Food Chain of Aquatic Ecosystem with Algal Producers

These examples of food interactions can be outlined respectively as;

1. Shrub Seeds→Darkling Bettle→Desert Mouse→Horned Viper→Wedge-tailed Eagle

2. Cacao leaves→Sloth→Tayra→Puma

3. Lichen→Arctic Hare→Arctic Fox→Polar Bear

4. Indiangrass→Mormon Cricket→Frog→Hawk

5. Algae→Zooplankton→Fish→Squid


This article discusses some examples of food chain interactions in various ecosystems, as follows;








1). 5-Level Desert Food Chain with Quaternary Consumer (as one of the Examples of Food Chain Interactions)

Desert Food Chain Example: Shrub Seeds→Darkling BeetleDesert Mouse→Horned Viper→Wedge-tailed Eagle

A five-level desert food chain is a classic example of a food chain with active biological interactions by which bioenergy is transferred from one trophic level to another.

Shrubs (Level 1) are among the primary producers of energy and biomass in a desert, due to their photosynthetic activities that allow them capture and convert solar energy to usable chemical energy [2].

Shrub seeds can be consumed by the darkling beetle (Tenebrionidae) (Level 2), which is a primary consumer that can be found in deserts of Australia and some other arid regions. As a typical primary consumer, the darkling beetle is heterotrophic; meaning that it is unable to produce its own food photosynthetically, like shrubs.

The darkling beetle is also herbivorous, and acts as a bridge in the desert energy pyramid or food chain, that lies between producers, which are the main energy source, and secondary/tertiary consumers, which are mostly incapable of feeding on plants directly.

Desert Mouse can act as a secondary consumer (Level 3), which preys on the darkling beetle. This organism (desert mouse) can only be placed as a secondary consumer in deserts that have significant relative species richness and complexity. Otherwise, it has prominent herbivorous attributes and can fill the position of primary consumer.

A carnivorous reptile like the horned viper (Level 4) can act as the tertiary consumer in a desert. Being a stealthy, ground-dwelling predator, the horned viper can prey upon desert mice, thereby fulfilling their role in the energy transfer sequence of the desert ecosystem.

At the fifth trophic level (Level 5), the wedge-tailed eagle; a desert raptor, can play the role of quaternary consumer, by preying on the horned viper.

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The ability of the wedge-tailed eagle to occupy this position despite its relatively-small size, can be attributed to its biological advantages of keen sight, flight, and rapid locomotion; that allow it to operate at high altitude with less-vulnerability than the horned viper and desert mouse (it must be noted that, as a quaternary consumer, the eagle is capable of preying on other desert animals in multiple trophic levels; in this case including the desert mouse and the horned viper).






2). Producer-Dominated Forest Food Chain

Forest Food Chain Example: Cacao leaves→Sloth→Tayra→Puma

The food chain in a forest is simply a theoretical and/or diagrammatic outline of energy transfer interactions between various forest organisms at different trophic levels of the feeding hierarchy.

It can be said to be producer-dominated, because of the relatively large population and biodiversity of producers (plants) in forests, and their multiple, important roles as food sources, environment/climate modifiers, and habitual shelter for various organisms.

In a neo-tropical forest, the Cacao plant (Theobroma cacao) is a notable producer (Level 1) [1], which introduces energy and biomass into the ecosystem.

Consumers in a forest food chain include all heterotrophic organisms that must depend either directly or indirectly on producers for nutrition and survival. They include Primary, Secondary and Tertiary consumers; where the former is directly-dependent and herbivorous; while the latter two are indirectly dependent, carnivorous and omnivorous.

As a primary consumer, the herbivorous sloth can live on a few daily ounces of plant biomass in the form of Cacao leaves and pods (Level 2). For this organism, its adaptations for survival are based on keen sensory abilities, and tree-climbing behavior, both of which enable it to find food, and elude predators.

Because the weasel-like tayra is also capable of climbing and high sensitivity, it can prey on the sloth. Given its relatively-small size, this organism can be conveniently classified as a secondary consumer (Level 3).

Tayras can in turn fall prey to larger and/or less-vulnerable forest consumers like the puma, which in this case serves as the tertiary consumer (Level 4). The puma comes into the food chain with multiple advantages that include agility, high-sensitivity, size, and climbing ability. These make it capable of preying on not only the tayra (L3), but also on the sloth (L2).

In a more complex and diversified neo-tropical forest, large predators like pumas and jaguars can be classified as quaternary consumers (Level 5), or apex predators. This is only possible provided smaller or more-vulnerable consumers are available to occupy the tertiary level.

Aside the puma, another natural tertiary predator that feeds on the tayra is the harpy eagle, whose advantage comes from high-altitude navigation, keen sight, and speed.

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Examples of Food Chain Interactions: The Puma's Climbing Ability as an Advantage toward its Tertiary Consumer Role (Credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie 2012 .CC BY 2.0.)
Examples of Food Chain Interactions: The Puma's Climbing Ability as an Advantage toward its Tertiary Consumer Role (Credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie 2012 .CC BY 2.0.)






3). Tundra Food Chain (as one of the Examples of Food Chain Interactions)

Tundra Food Chain Example: Lichen→Arctic Hare→Arctic Fox→Polar Bear

The food chain in the tundra represents feeding relationships between plants, herbivores, carnivores and omnivores that are adapted to the harsh conditions and characteristics of the tundra.

Four (4) producers in the tundra are; lichens, mosses, sedges and willows [5].

The lichen is a highly versatile producer (Level 1) in the tundra, and constitutes part of the herbivorous diet of the Arctic hare, which serves as a primary consumer (Level 2). Arctic hares are able to thrive in tundras due to adaptive features like; burrowing behavior, camouflaging, and high sensitivity.

These rodents are abundant compared to secondary and tertiary tundra consumers, because of their direct dependence on plants. It must be noted that plant growth in the tundra is sparse and precipitation can be relatively low, so that some parts of tundras may be described correctly as cold deserts (which is recognized as one of the types of deserts). Yet, the relative abundance of plants is high with respect to other organisms.

Five (5) primary consumers in the tundra are; caribou, hare, ox, lemming, and pika. Several of these are larger than hares, but they generally serve as prey to carnivorous consumers.

One of such carnivorous consumers is the Arctic fox; which plays the role of a secondary consumer (Level 3) due to its relatively small size with respect to other predators.

Larger predators like the Polar bear can then occupy the tertiary consumer position (Level 4), by preying on Arctic foxes.

It must be noted that due to its large size and strength compared to other consumers in the tundra, the polar bear can easily be classified as a quaternary consumer in cases where a smaller tertiary consumer is available; such as the wolf, which also preys on the Arctic fox.






4). Grassland Food Chain

Grassland Food Chain Example: Indiangrass→Mormon Cricket→Frog→Hawk

The food chain of grassland ecosystem is a hierarchical outline of the order of energy transfer through feeding, among various organisms that are adapted to grassland bio-geo-climatic conditions.

Like the forest food chain, grassland food chains are producer-dominated; because plants occupy a major position, spatially, physicochemically, geographically and biologically in the grassland.

Producers in the grassland food chain for temperate grasslands or prairies include; forbs like coneflower and aster; grasses like indiangrass and little bluestem; and photosynthetic bacteria.

The Indiangrass is fairly versatile as a grassland producer (Level 1), and this can be attributed to some adaptive features of the plant including its efficient root system, conservative evapo-transpiration, and physical resilience to stressors like wind.

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Primary consumers (Level 2) in the grassland include herbivorous insects like locusts and mormon crickets, which feed directly on producers like the Indiangrass.

These insects are prey to carnivorous amphibians like the frog, which is able to survive by reason of its camouflage, distinctive locomotion, and the presence of sufficient humidity in some parts of the grassland.

Consuming the mormon cricket as food places the frog among primary consumers (Level 3).

Hawks may then prey on frogs, making them tertiary consumers (Level 4).

Examples of Food Chain Interactions: Camouflaging as an Adaptive Feature of Grassland Frogs for their Survival in the Food Chain (Credit: Stephen Friedt 2008 .CC BY-SA 3.0.)
Examples of Food Chain Interactions: Camouflaging as an Adaptive Feature of Grassland Frogs for their Survival in the Food Chain (Credit: Stephen Friedt 2008 .CC BY-SA 3.0.)






5). Food Chain of Aquatic Ecosystem with Algal Producers

Aquatic Food Chain Example: Algae→Zooplankton→Fish→Squid

The food chain of aquatic ecosystem is a sequence showing how aquatic organisms depend on each other for nutrition and survival. Aquatic food chains can refer to small ponds, lakes, streams or ocean trophic levels, and exhibit a high level of biological and geographic diversity than terrestrial food chains.

Food chains in the ocean may also be macrobial or microbial, as organisms share complex relationships at various levels, which build out to form intricate food webs and energy pyramids [4].

The four-step food chain in an aquatic ecosystem can be represented by; Algae→Zooplankton→Fish→Squid as a classic instance, where each organism represents a different trophic level beginning from level 1 to level 4.

Producers (Level 1) in aquatic ecosystems include phytoplankton like algae, which are able to manufacture their own food from solar energy through photosynthesis [3].

Zooplankton, alongside crustaceans and small fish, can prey on algae, making them primary consumers (Level 2).

Fish and corals may play the role of secondary consumer by feeding on zooplankton (Level 3); while larger aquatic predators like squid, dolphin and shark, are capable of preying on fish, thereby acting as tertiary consumers (Level 4).







Examples of food chain interactions are;

1). 5-Level Desert Food Chain with Quaternary Consumer

2). Producer-Dominated Forest Food Chain

3). Tundra Food Chain

4). Grassland Food Chain

5). Food Chain of Aquatic Ecosystem with Algal Producers







1). Bhattarcharjee, B.; Kumar, L. (2007). "Cacao." Technical Crops (pp.127-142). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-540-34538-1_7. (Accessed 10 April 2023).

2). Lawson, T.; Davey, P. A.; Yates, S. A.; Bechtold, U.; Baeshen, M.; Baeshen, N.; Mutwakil, M. Z.; Sabir, J.; Baker, N. R.; Mullineaux, P. M. (2014). "C3 photosynthesis in the desert plant Rhazya stricta is fully functional at high temperatures and light intensities." New Phytol. 2014 Feb;201(3):862-873. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.12559. (Accessed 10 April 2023).

3). Prézelin, B. B.; Tilzer, M.M.; Schofield, O.; Haese, C. (1991). "The control of the production process of phytoplankton by the physical structure of the aquatic environment with special reference to its optical properties." Aquatic Sciences 53(2):136-186. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00877058. (Accessed 10 April 2023).

4). Ramachandra, T. V.; Ramanan, R.; Karthick, B. (2006). "ZOOPLANKTON AS BIOINDICATORS: HYDRO-BIOLOGICAL INVESTIGATIONS IN SELECTED BANGALORE LAKES." Technical Report 115, Indian Institute of Science. Available at: https://doi.org/10.13140/2.1.3941.9849. (Accessed 10 April 2023).

5). Wielgolaski, F. E. (1972). "Vegetation Types and Plant Biomass in Tundra." Arctic and Alpine Research 4(4):291-305. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/00040851.1972.12003650. (Accessed 10 April 2023).

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