This lesson is about the food chain of a lion. Here, we’ll examine where lions live and some facts about these animals. We will also review what food chains are and learn what the specific food chain for a lion looks like.
What is a Food Chain?
Imagine you’re on an African safari. Your guide is driving you through the African savanna in a rugged Jeep with the top down.
As you cruise along, you see beautiful herds of antelope and zebra. In the grass nearby, you catch sight of a lion laying low. Suddenly, it bolts from its well-concealed hiding place. The zebra and antelope scatter, but the lioness takes down one of the slow ones. The lioness drags her prey back to the pride, or group of lions, to feast.Although we’d be lucky to go on an African safari in person, we can get a taste of it today in this lesson.
We’ll learn how the prey gets their food, and how that energy is transferred to the lion. In order to do this, we need to cover some food chain basics.A food chain is a diagram showing the linear transfer of energy through different organisms in an ecosystem. In other words, it shows what eats what. The energy transferred is in the form of food. Food chains simply demonstrate how energy moves from one organism to the next, in a straight line. In this lesson, we are going to focus on the food chain of lions.
Food chains are made up of layers, called trophic levels. There are four trophic levels in most food chains.At the base of each food chain are producers. Producers make their own food and are usually green plants. Next, primary consumers are herbivores that eat producers. Herbs are plants, so an herbivore only eats plants, just like vegans! Secondary consumers are carnivores that eat primary consumers. Carnivores are animals that only eat meat.
At the top of the food chain are tertiary consumers, which are top predators. These animals eat both primary and secondary consumers and keep the food web in check. Here is a diagram of a food chain.
Food Chain of a Lion
Lions are large cats that now live exclusively in Africa. Male cats can weigh over 500 pounds! They live and hunt in groups called prides. The female lion, or lioness, does most of the hunting, but males also hunt. Lions are a tertiary predator. They are at the top of the food chain in the African savanna.
Lions mainly eat grazing animals, like zebras, antelope, wildebeests and occasionally elephants. However, they also are known to go after secondary consumers, like baby hippos and crocodiles.Crocodiles are a secondary consumer and feed on primary consumers like wildebeest, antelope, and zebras as they drink from rivers. The grazing animals feed on producers, such as the grasses covering the savanna.
Lions are a top predator in the savanna.
Top predators can also be keystone species, or species that are essential for keeping the ecosystem in balance. Lions control the population of primary and secondary consumers. Without lions hunting the grazing animals, the population of grazers would grow out of control. The grazing animals would eat their entire food source, the producers. Without producers, the entire ecosystem would collapse.
Threats to Lions
Lions are an extremely important species, but they are under threat from humans. Agriculture continues to eat into their habitat, decreasing the space available for hunting.
Consequently, lions may wander into residential areas, feeding on livestock, which in turn prompts farmers to kill the lions. Other forms of illegal hunting are also a threat to the lion population.
In summary, food chains are a diagram showing the linear transfer of energy through different organisms in an ecosystem. Food chains consist of the following:
- Producers: make their own food and are usually green plants
- Primary consumers: herbivores that eat producers (an herbivore only eats plants)
- Secondary consumers: carnivores that eat primary consumers (carnivores only eat meat)
- Tertiary consumers: eat both primary and secondary consumers
In this lesson we looked at the food chain of lions. Lions are top predators and also a keystone species, or species that are essential for keeping the ecosystem in balance. Lions keep the population of primary and secondary consumers in check and balance the ecosystem.
However, due to encroaching farming and poaching, the lion population is decreasing.