Most kids and adults alike might be more familiar with the term "food chain" where one animal eats a particular animal (or plant) and that animal is eaten by another animal further up the food chain and so on and so on. The ecosystem in the tropical rainforest is more complicated than that and is best described as a "food web" (also called food cycle). What is the difference between a "food chain" and a "food web"? The answer is that a food web is made up of all the overlapping and interconnected food chains in the rainforest and is an intricate entangled description of the ecosystem. Interdependence and the fact that a linear chain of what eats what does not always exist is key to understanding the tropical rainforest food web.
On this page we will list interesting information about the food web of tropical rainforest biomes with facts that will help you to better understand this complicated system. This information will include how the food web is organized, what animals depend on other animals for food, and how environmental and human factors can affect this system.
Interesting Tropical Rainforest Food Web Facts
- An important fact is that every living thing in the tropical rain forest is part of numerous food chains.
- Plants are an important part of the rainforest food web. Herbivores, which are animals that only eat plants, and omnivores, that eat plants and animals, depend on plants for food. Also insects often eat plants and decayed plants.
- As mentioned above interdependence is a key factor in the tropical rainforest food web. To better understand this consider this example. Larger carnivores that are high up on the food chain, like leopards and tigers, eat smaller animals; therefore depending on them for survival. On the other hand the smaller animals will often eat the remains of a large carnivore's kill, after the carnivore has had its fill; therefore the small animals also depend on the carnivore for survival.
- The food web does not always contain straight (linear) food chains; this animal eats this smaller animal and then is eaten by a bigger animal and so on. For example some birds in the rainforest eat snakes and some snakes eat birds.
- When a species becomes extinct or its numbers diminished by environmental factors or by the actions of humans, such as destruction of their habitat, numerous other species are effected and threatened due to the complex interdependence of the tropical Rainforest Food Web.
Categories of organisms in the Tropical Rainforest Food WebAs mentioned above the rainforest food web is complex with food chains that overlap and that are interconnected. With that said below we have listed the main categories of organisms found in the food chain (or food web).
- Producers - are plants and they are the beginning of the tropical rainforest food chain. Plants make food using the sun's energy with a process called photosynthesis.
- Primary Consumers - are organisms that consume only plants. They are called herbivores. Examples of herbivores are Howler Monkeys, Fruit Bats, Capybaras, and the Blue Macaw.
- Secondary Consumers - are animals that eat primary consumers. Included in this level of the food chain are carnivores such as tigers, Jaguars, and Pumas and omnivores (eat meat and plants) such as spider monkeys and Toucans.
- Decomposers - consume dead matter which includes dead animals and plants. Decomposers break down nutrients in the dead matter which is then returned to the soil. They are the last link in the food chain; the nutrients they supply feed the producers at the top of the food chain.