Food Web – Definition, Types, Examples

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  • A food web is a detailed, interconnected diagram that shows how organisms in a certain environment all get their food.
  • It can be thought of as a “who eats whom” diagram that shows how all the different animals in an ecosystem get their food.
  • It’s important to study food webs because they can show how energy moves through an ecosystem.
  • It also helps us figure out how toxins and other pollutants build up in a certain ecosystem.
  • Bioaccumulation of mercury can be seen in places like the Florida Everglades and the San Francisco Bay.
  • Food webs can also help us study and explain how the variety of species is related to how they fit into the whole food chain.
  • They may also show important things about how invasive species interact with native species in a certain ecosystem.

Definition of Food Web

  • The idea of a food web, which used to be called a food cycle, is usually given to Charles Elton, who first wrote about it in his 1927 book Animal Ecology.
  • People think of him as one of the people who started modern ecology, and his book is an important one. In this book, he also talked about important ecological ideas like niche and succession.
  • Organisms are placed in a food web based on their trophic level. A living thing’s trophic level is based on how it eats and shows where it fits in the food web as a whole.
  • Autotrophs and heterotrophs are the two main types of organisms. Heterotrophs, on the other hand, don’t make their own food. There are five main trophic levels within this broad term: primary producers, primary consumers, secondary consumers, tertiary consumers, and apex predators.
  • A food web shows how the different levels of trophic levels in different food chains connect to each other and how energy moves through the different levels of trophic levels in an ecosystem.
Food Web
Food Web
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Characteristics of the food web

  • Unlike a food chain, a food web is more realistic.
  • The food web is made up of different food chains that are linked at different levels of the food web.
  • A food web isn’t straight, and the parts of the food chain don’t run in a straight line.
  • Food web gives people a lot of options for what to eat. In a food web, there are also feedback loops that keep the populations of different species stable.
  • An ecosystem can’t stay stable without a food web.

Trophic Levels in a Food Web

  • Primary producers: Primary producers make their own food through a process called photosynthesis. Photosynthesis turns the light energy from the sun into chemical energy that plants use to make food. Plants and algae are examples of primary producers. These living things can also be called autotrophs.
  • Primary consumers: The animals that eat the primary producers are the primary consumers. They are called primary because they are the first things to eat the organisms that make their own food, which are called primary producers. These creatures can also be called herbivores. Rabbits, beavers, elephants, and moose are all examples of animals that belong to this group.
  • Secondary consumers: Organisms that eat the first-level consumers are called secondary consumers. These animals are either carnivorous or omnivorous, since they eat animals that eat plants. Omnivores eat both other animals and plants. Carnivores only eat other animals. A good example of a secondary consumer is a bear.
  • Tertiary consumers: Tertiary consumers are like secondary consumers in that they can eat both meat and plants. The main difference is that secondary consumers eat other animals that eat meat. An eagle is a good example.
  • Predators: Apex predators live on the top level, which is the last one. Apex predators are at the top of the food chain because they have no natural enemies. Lions are an example.
  • Decomposers: Other organisms that eat dead plants and animals and break them down are called decomposers. Fungi are examples of decomposers. Other organisms, called detritivores, eat dead animals and plants. A vulture is an animal that eats dead things.

Energy Flow

  • Energy moves from one trophic level to the next. It starts with the sun’s energy, which autotrophs use to make their own food. This energy moves up the levels as the organisms on each level are eaten by organisms on the level above them.
  • About 10% of the energy that moves from one trophic level to the next is turned into biomass. Biomass is the total mass of an organism or the total mass of all organisms in a certain trophic level.
  • Organisms use energy to move around and do their daily tasks, but only a small amount of this energy is stored as biomass.

Types of Food Webs

There are different kinds of food webs that differ in how they are put together and what they show or stress about the organisms in the ecosystem they show.

Scientists can show different parts of the relationships in an ecosystem with connectance and interaction food webs, as well as energy flow, fossil, and functional food webs. Scientists can also divide food webs into different types based on what kind of ecosystem they show.

1. Connectance Food Webs

  • In a connectance food network, scientists employ arrows to represent the consumption of one species by another.
  • All arrows have the same amount of weight.
  • The intensity of one species’ ingestion by another is not illustrated.

2. Interaction Food Webs

  • Similar to connectance food webs, scientists employ arrows in interaction food webs to represent a species’ consumption by another.
  • However, the arrows are weighted to indicate the degree or intensity of one species’ ingestion by another.
  • If one species regularly consumes another, the arrows portrayed in such arrangements may be larger, bolder, or darker to denote the intensity of eating.
  • If the contact between species is very modest, the arrow may be absent or very narrow.

3. Energy Flow Food Webs

  • kinetic flow Food webs illustrate the relationships between creatures in an environment by quantifying and illustrating the energy transfer between organisms.

4. Fossil Food Webs

  • Food webs can be dynamic, and food linkages within an ecosystem can fluctuate over time.
  • In a fossil food web, scientists attempt to rebuild the relationships between species based on the fossil record’s available evidence.

5. Functional Food Webs

  • Functional food webs illustrate the relationships between species in an ecosystem by illustrating how the growth rate of one population influences the growth rate of another population within the environment.

Importance of studying Food web

  • To comprehend food chain and food pyramid concepts.
  • To examine how a food web functions.
  • To comprehend the interactions and linkages between organisms in an ecosystem.
  • Facilitates comprehension of natural selection.
  • What are trophic levels within the pyramid of food?
  • It illustrates how energy is transmitted from the base of the energy pyramid to its apex.
  • How energy circulates throughout an ecosystem.
  • To comprehend the interdependence of organisms in food pyramids.

Examples of Food Web


  • Cacti, bushes, acacias, flowers, and brush are producers.
  • Principal Predators: Insects, Lizards, and Rodents
  • Secondary consumers include spiders, scorpions, lizards, and snakes.


  • Producers: Plants, fruits, nuts, seeds, flowers
  • Primary Consumers: Deer, squirrels, frogs, birds, Pikas
  • Secondary Consumers: Pine Marten, jackrabbits, ravens, ringtails 


  • Producers and Decomposers: Seagrass, seaweed, algae, plankton, bacteria
  • Primary Consumers: Turtles, damselfish, crab, shrimp
  • Secondary Consumers: Octopuses, triggerfish, squid, krill
Example of a Food Web (Pond Ecosystem)
Example of a Food Web (Pond Ecosystem) | Image credit:



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