Consumer (food chain)
Consumers in a food chain are living creatures that eat organisms from a different population. First, it is necessary to understand these two classifications, heterotrophs and autotrophs, consumers and producers respectively. Heterotrophs are organisms that obtain energy from other living things. Like sea angels, they take in organic molecules 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. On the other hand, autotrophs are organisms that use energy directly from the sun or from chemical bonds. Commonly called producers. Autotrophs are vital all ecosystems because all organisms need organic molecules and only autotrophs can produce them from inorganic compounds. The autotrophs are classified in photoautotrophs (get energy from the sun, like plants) and the chemoautotrophs (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, the organism does not necessarily need to be carnivorous, it can also only eat plants (producers) being located in the first level of the food chain above the producers. Some carnivorous plants, like the Venus flytrap, are classified as both. Consumers are basically said to be 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, tertiary consumers. 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 of this would be the koala because it feeds only on eucalyptus leaves. Primary consumers who feed on many kinds of plants are called generalists. Secondary consumers, on the other hand, are carnivores, and prey on other animals. Omnivores, who feed on both plants and animals, can also be considered as secondary consumer. Tertiary consumers, 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. Secondary and tertiary consumers both must hunt for their food so they are referred to as predators.
Importance to the ecosystem
One must learn the importance of the ecosystem in order to understand how the food from one organism is transferred over to the next. By this it makes it easier to understand why being balanced throughout the ecosystem is a big deal and how to help improve if needed.Consumers have important roles to play within an ecosystem such as balancing the food chain 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 to that there will be a change in climate which can also worsen the ecosystem and affect the air quality and water.
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