Consumer (food chain)

Consumers are organisms that eat organisms from a different population. These organisms are formally referred to as heterotrophs, which include animals, some bacteria and fungi. Such organisms may consume by various means, including predation, parasitization, and biodegradation.


Consumers are typically viewed as predatory animals such as the wolf and hyena. However, herbivorous animals and parasitic fungi are also consumers.Some carnivorous plants, like the Venus flytrap, are classified as both. So are omnivorous animals.[1]

Levels of the food chain

Within an ecological food chain, Consumers are categorized into primary consumers, secondary consumers, and the tertiary consumers.[2] Primary consumers are herbivores, feeding on plants. 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 a 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 one such example of a tertiary consumer.

Importance to the ecosystem

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.

See also


  1. "Venus flytraps' carnivorous ways enable it to do photosynthesis better". Cornell Center for Materials Research. 5 March 2008. Archived from the original on 22 June 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2012.
  2. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2009-10-07. Retrieved 2009-09-03.
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