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How Do Animal Food Chains Work?

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At the bottom of every food chain are plants. As they grow, plants store energy from the sun in their leaves, buds and other growing tissues. Plants are therefore known as primary producers. By eating a plant, or part of a plant, an animal acquires this stored, albeit already diminished, energy and is referred to as a primary consumer.

Inevitably, the plant eating animal is a store of energy for another animal. When it is eaten in turn, its predator is known as a secondary consumer.

This process continues until there is no predator capable of killing and eating the ultimate possessor of the primary producer's stored energy. When this happens, the top of the food chain has been reached. But it is not the end of the story.

The food chain continues when the top of the food chain animal dies. Its body returns the remaining energy to lesser life forms. Some of the dead animal will be consumed by carrion-eating animals or consumed by insect larvae. The rest of the body decomposes, returning to the soil where it is processed by fungi, bacteria and micro-organisms. The food chain has now gone full circle.

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