A consumer in a food chain is a living creature that eats organisms from a different population. A consumer is a heterotroph and a producer is an autotroph. Both are organisms that obtain energy from other living things... Like sea angels, they take in organic moles by consuming other organisms, so they are commonly called consumers. Heterotrophs can be classified by what they usually eat as herbivores, carnivores, omnivores, or decomposers.[1] On the other hand, autotrophs are organisms that use energy directly from the sun or from chemical bonds. Autotrophs are vital to all ecosystems because all organisms need organic molecules, and only autotrophs can produce them from inorganic compounds.[1] Autotrophs are classified as either photoautotrophs (which get energy from the sun, like plants) or chemoautotrophs (which get energy from chemical bonds, like certain bacteria).

Consumers are typically viewed as predatory animals such as meat-eaters. However, herbivorous animals and parasitic fungi are also consumers. To be a consumer, an organism does not necessarily need to be carnivorous; it could only eat plants (producers), in which case it would be located in the first level of the food chain above the producers. Some carnivorous plants, like the Venus flytrap, are classified as both a producer and a consumer.[2] Consumers are therefore anything that eats; hence the word consume which means to eat.

Levels of the food chain

Within an ecological food chain, consumers are categorized into primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers.[3] Primary consumers are herbivores, feeding on plants. Caterpillars, insects, grasshoppers, termites and hummingbirds are all examples of primary consumers because they only eat autotrophs (plants). There are certain primary consumers that are called specialists because they only eat one type of producers. An example is the koala, because it feeds only on eucalyptus leaves. Primary consumers that feed on many kinds of plants are called generalists. Secondary consumers, on the other hand, are carnivores, and prey on other animals. Omnivores, which feed on both plants and animals, can also be considered as secondary consumers. Tertiary consumers, which are sometimes also known as apex predators, are usually at the top of food chains, capable of feeding on secondary consumers and primary consumers. Tertiary consumers can be either fully carnivorous or omnivorous. Humans are an example of a tertiary consumer. Both secondary and tertiary consumers must hunt for their food, so they are referred to as predators.[2]

Importance to the ecosystem

In an ecosystem, energy is transferred from level to another as food. A balance in these transfers is vital to the health and stability of an ecosystem.[4] Consumers balance the food chain in an ecosystem by keeping plant populations at a reasonable number. Without proper balance, an ecosystem can collapse and cause the decline of all affected species. This will lead to a severely disrupted ecosystem and a nonfunctional consumer web. In addition, there will be a change in climate, which can further worsen the ecosystem and affect the air quality and water.[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b Grewal, Wakin, Science, Mandeep, Suzanne, Plant (2017). Human Biology Butte. Biology Butte. pp. Energy in Ecosystems.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b "Venus flytraps' carnivorous ways enable it to do photosynthesis better". Cornell Center for Materials Research. 5 March 2008. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  3. ^ "Food Chains". Archived from the original on 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
  4. ^ "Food chains and food webs | WWF". wwf.panda.org. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  5. ^ "Why do we need to protect biodiversity? - Environment - European Commission". ec.europa.eu. Retrieved 2019-04-29.