This lesson is on rainforest food chains. In this lesson, we’ll go over what a rainforest is and where they are, as well as some food chain basics. Then, we’ll get into two specific food chains in the Amazon Rainforest.
What Is a Food Chain?
It’s almost pitch black on the forest floor. Despite getting the most sunlight of any other area, the rainforest floor is covered in darkness as the canopy absorbs all the sunlight.
An entirely new world dwells below the canopy. Howler monkeys screech and the bushes rustle with bugs, rodents, monkeys and larger predators. It’s eat or be eaten in this jungle madness. As it turns out, scientists have a way of keeping track of who eats who. It’s called a food chain, and it’s the focus of this lesson.
A food chain shows the linear transfer of energy between species in an ecosystem. The energy moves between species as food. So, basically, a food chain shows what eats what.
The food chain is organized into layers called trophic levels. At the bottom, trophic level are the producers. Producers make their own food and are the base of the food chain.
Primary consumers eat the producers. They only eat plants, so they are also known as herbivores. Next up, we have the carnivores, or secondary consumers, that eat the primary consumers. At the very top of the food chain are the tertiary consumers, or top predators.
These guys eat the primary and secondary consumers, keeping the ecosystem in balance.
A rainforest is a large area of land characterized by heavy rainfall and lush vegetation. Most of us think of the Amazon Rainforest, but rainforests exist elsewhere in the world as well. Rainforests exist in colder climates too, like Olympic National Park in Washington state. Additional tropical rainforests dot the land of Southeast Asia in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Although we typically think of Africa as a desert, Western Africa and parts of Madagascar have some of the greatest biodiversity in any rainforest.
Because of the warm temperatures in tropical rainforests, heavy rainfall, and lush vegetation, rainforests are home to millions of species that exist nowhere else in the world. Today, we’ll explore the food chain for two of those species.
Jaguar Food Chain
The jaguar is a large cat weighing up to 200 pounds and growing up to six feet in length. They live exclusively in the Amazon Rainforest in Central and South America.
These cats are a top predator in their environment. They feed on caiman, large crocodiles in the Amazon River that are secondary consumers. Caiman and jaguars both feed on primary consumers like capybara and tapirs. The primary consumers eat the beautiful vegetation that covers the trees and canopy of the Amazon.
Capybaras eat grass, reeds, and fruit that are producers.
Anteater Food Chain
Giant anteaters are also incredibly large predators reaching seven feet in length and weighing up to 100 pounds! Although seemingly monstrous, these giant predators only eat ants and other small bugs, as their name suggests. They have claws they use to dig up ant hills and a giant tongue (up to two feet) that sticks to the ants, grabbing them and pulling them into their mouth.Giant anteaters are secondary consumers. They eat ants, which are primary consumers. The ants eat leaves and grass present on the forest floor.
The tertiary consumers in this food chain are jaguars and other big cats that feed on anteaters.
The rainforest is one of the most important biomes on Earth. Many medicinal products that humans use grow only in the rainforest, and scientists believe they have only studied 1% of the plants that might have medicinal use. Millions of species live in the rainforest that live nowhere else in the world. If we don’t protect the rainforest, these species may go extinct.The rainforest is also incredibly important in global warming. Global warming is the increase in global temperature due to carbon dioxide emissions.
Carbon dioxide is released from our cars, factories and electricity plants. Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and help to decrease global temperatures.
In summary, a food chain is a diagram showing the linear transfer of energy between two species. Producers make up the base of the food chain and are eaten by primary consumers. Secondary consumers eat the primary consumers. Tertiary consumers eat both primary and secondary consumers and help keep the food chain in balance.
Jaguars are tertiary consumers that eat caiman, a secondary consumer. Caiman eat capybara, which are primary consumers, eating plants and fruit on the forest floor. Jaguars also eat anteaters, which are another secondary consumer. Anteaters eat ants, which feed on leaves, the producers of the food chain.The rainforest is incredibly important because it hosts millions of species that live nowhere else in the world and may be used for medicine. The rainforest also helps to combat global warming by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.