The trophic chain or food chain is a mechanism in which there is a transfer of organic matter and energy between living organisms that inhabit an ecosystem. This food chain is made up of different trophic levels: producers, consumers and decomposers.
If you want to know more about the trophic level of consumers and how all existing consumers are classified, continue reading this interesting article by AgroCorrn in which, in addition to knowing them all, it will talk in more detail about what quaternary consumers are and examples of these.
- What are Quaternary Consumers
- Examples of Quaternary Consumers
- Why there are few quaternary consumers in ecosystems
- What are primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary consumers
What are Quaternary Consumers
They are the species that are found at the top of the food chain , also called superpredator or superpredator species , and they are not stalked by other predators that are not these same species.
They are heterotrophic species , specifically omnivorous , that is, they feed on both plants and animals to obtain organic matter, and carnivorous, that is, they feed only on meat. They are the least abundant group of species in the trophic pyramid and it is also the least time ago that it was created to study ecosystems and, therefore, there are species that, depending on the situation of the ecosystem, are classified as tertiary consumers or as quaternary consumers.
Examples of Quaternary Consumers
Here are some examples of quaternary consumers, both aquatic and terrestrial or air-terrestrial:
Examples of aquatic quaternary consumers
- Sharks: if we were to ask ourselves what type of consumer is the shark, we could think that it belongs to the tertiary consumer, but it would be better located within the quaternary consumers since these can even feed on other sharks, among other organisms on which they feed there are fish, mollusks, plankton, mollusks and crustaceans. There are some species of shark such as hammerhead, mako and bull shark that consume practically any type of life, without distinction.
- Crocodiles: it is situated as a quaternary consumer since when they are young their diet is mainly based on smaller animals such as crabs, small amphibians, insects and small fish. However, when crocodiles grow they feed on other reptiles, birds, and even large mammals that come to the shore to drink.
- Orcas: Also called killer whales, they are not actually whales , but rather the largest dolphins and they are totally carnivorous. Due to their type of diet, size and great ability to hunt with elaborate strategies, they are considered quaternary consumers, only others of this level attack them to eat them.
Examples of quaternary terrestrial consumers
- Eagles: they are hunting birds that hunt animals such as rabbits, snakes, other birds, small rodents, among others. Also, add that they can be scavengers in case there is a shortage of animals to hunt.
- Polar bears: they are carnivores that need large food intakes in their day to day, it is estimated that a polar bear needs 30 kilos of food a day. They are large predators that feed mainly on reindeer and seals, although due to the lack of food they can eat each other. Cannibalism among polar bears is something that used to occur exceptionally, but due to the effects of climate change these cases are becoming more and more frequent.
- Human being: people are also consumers at the top of the trophic pyramid, since we are omnivorous animals that feed on a wide variety of species and we do not have direct predators, mainly others of the same level, and we are consumers that consume much more energy than the one we contribute to the food chain, that is why we place ourselves in tertiary or quaternary consumers.
Why there are few quaternary consumers in ecosystems
Nature seeks its own balance and naturally establishes its own order. In natural systems, the number of quaternary consumers is lower because they consume the most energy , but produce the least energy . In the trophic chain there is a flow of energy , which goes from one trophic level to another, in this change in level, there is a loss of energy, that is why there are a greater number of producers, being greater than that of primary consumers, but there are also more primary consumers than secondary, more secondary than tertiary, and more tertiary than quaternary.
In addition, taking into account that quaternary consumers are great predators with a very large diet, since they practically feed on any herbivorous, omnivorous or carnivorous consumer. If there were a large number of this type of consumer, the rest of the consumers would be seriously threatened and the number of the rest of the species would be reduced, destabilizing the entire food chain.
We recommend that you learn more information related to these other articles on the Ecosystem in equilibrium: what it is and how it is maintained and on Ecological Imbalance: what it is, causes, consequences and examples .
What are primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary consumers
In addition to quaternary consumers, within the food chain we find other types of consumers :
- Primary consumers: the species that form the first group of consumers are herbivorous species . They are heterotrophic animals that require organic matter to feed, this organic matter is obtained from plant species, plants within the trophic chain form the link of producers. Some examples are herbivorous birds, rodents, or small amphibians. In this other post you will see more information about What are primary consumers and examples .
- Secondary consumers: in this group there are both omnivorous and carnivorous species, all being heterotrophic, that is, they obtain organic matter for their food. To obtain it they do so by feeding on species that belong to the primary consumers, thus controlling the volume of their population. Some examples are cats, cougars and owls, among others. In this other article you can see more about What are secondary consumers and examples .
- Tertiary consumers: this group is made up of carnivorous species, they are heterotrophic animals that need to consume organic matter to obtain their energy. The organic matter is obtained from secondary consumers and from some primary ones, thus controlling this population and indirectly the remaining trophic levels . Some examples of tertiary animals are the fox, the black panther, seals and sea lions, among others. Here you can learn more about what tertiary consumers are and examples .
- Quaternary consumers: as we have already mentioned above, they are the animal species that are at the top level of consumers, at the top of the food pyramid, and can be fed from all consumers. Some examples of this type of consumer are the human being and the shark.
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