7 Characteristics of trophic chains

The trophic chain is the transfer of sequential energy in the consumption of organisms. An example is acacias, which are meals by antelopes, in turn consumed by hyenas, and finally, they are lion food. Life is sustained by the interconnections between living beings. All depend on others for survival, especially evidenced in food. To learn more about what a trophic string and examples is, we invite you to read this article.

What is a trophic chain

A trophic chain, also called the food chain or food chain, is the transfer of energy from consumption from one organism to another, passing through a sequence. Each organism is a link that is part of the chain, organized linearly. Energy transfer is done by the passage of nutrients when one organism feeds on another.

Characteristics of trophic chains

The trophic chain is made up of links, called each link also atrophic level. Each level feeds on the level precedent, and feeds to the next level. The first characteristic of the trophic chains is that there are always 5 links, which are:

  • Primary producers: are plants that transform sunlight and other abiotic factors in organic matter.
  • Primary or herbivorous consumers: they are animals that feed only on plant matter.
  • Secondary consumers: they are animals that feed only on herbivorous animals or primary consumers.
  • Tertiary consumers: they are animals that consume at the previous level, i.e. secondary consumers.
  • Quaternary or super-predatory consumers: they are the top predators of an ecosystem that do not have a level above them, that is, no one feeds on these animals.

Other important features of the trophic chain are those present:

  • There is optimal energy use, because it is used completely, and waste is recycled by detrit√≠voros to be retaken by primary producers.
  • Each link is indispensable for the ecosystem balance, and removing one would have a negative cascade effect. The absence of top predators is often used as an indicator of unbalanced trophic chains, such as cities.
  • There is energy loss from one level to another, because in the feeding process of some living beings to others energy is lost in the form of heat. Primary producers get 100 per cent, and it’s decreasing to superpredators. Each shift to the next link loses about 10% of energy.

Types of trophic chain

The trophic chain can be classified according to the place where the process is completed. In this way we have:

  • Earth trophic chains: they are the ones that happen with organisms within the continents.
  • Water trophic chains: they are the ones that involve organisms that live in seas, rivers, lakes, or any aquatic ecosystem.

These types of trophic chain are not necessarily isolated, because they can go from aquatic to terrestrial, and vice versa. Let us now see some examples.

Examples of terrestrial trophic chains

The flowers produce nectar that feeds the butterflies, these being the primary consumer. They are consumed by frogs, who help themselves from their long, sticky tongue to capture them even when they are in flight. Frogs are the secondary consumer. Snakes then consume the frog, and finally, this snake is the eagle food.

In the African savannah, baobab trees predominate, and these are food for antelopes. They are

Examples of water trophic chains

The phytoplankton is the primary producer, and this is consumed by zooplankton. Both are microscopic. They are consumed by fish and crustaceans, which are secondary consumers because they are already fed on animals. These will be predated by larger fish, although they can also get out of the aquatic environment and be consuming by mammals or birds. Keeping us inside the sea, the big fish are the food of superpredators, which are the sharks.

The phytoplankton is consumed by crustaceans called krill. This krill is the food base of penguins, which are waterfowl. Penguins are hunted by seals, which are finally dragged into the water by orcas, sharks, or even polar bears.

Difference between trophic chain, network and trophic pyramid

Although these three terms refer to the transfer of energy between organisms, there are differences between each of them. Let’s check what they are.

  • Trip chain: it is the basic concept that simplifies the dependence of organisms for feeding each other. As it is simplified, it is only linear and with one element per trophic level.
  • trophic net: it is used to express that the trophic chain is not always linear, but is in the form of a network because the same resources are not always available. Thus, the trophic network explains all the possibilities of trophic relations. For example, wheat can be consumed by pigeons, but also by worms or mice. The difference with the trophic chain lies in the fact that there is not a single link, but there are multiple ramifications. This model is closer to what trophic relationships are like in nature.
  • Ttrophic pyramid: it is also called an ecological pyramid, and is a numerical expression in percentages of the amount of energy that is retained at the pace of nutrient transfer. That is, it quantifies the amount of biomass transferred from one level to another. The difference with the above terms is that the trophic pyramid covers only biomass and the percentages of it.

Now that you know what a trophic chain is, don’t miss this article about ecological imbalance: what is, causes and consequences.

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