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Secondary consumers: what they are and examples

The food chain or also called the trophic chain is a mechanism for the transfer of energy and organic matter between living organisms in an ecosystem. The food chain is made up of different levels or links: producers, consumers and decomposers.

Although three levels have been mentioned, within consumers there are four types and, specifically, in this interesting AgroCorrn article we will talk about what secondary consumers are and examples of them and of food chains.

You may also be interested in: Tertiary consumers: what they are and examples
  1. What are secondary consumers
  2. Examples of secondary consumers
  3. What is required to increase the number of secondary consumers
  4. What if there are no secondary consumers in an ecosystem
  5. What happens if a secondary consuming organism multiplies excessively
  6. What are the primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary consumers

What are secondary consumers

Among the secondary consumers we find carnivorous or omnivorous species , that is, heterotrophic animals. Heterotrophic animals are those that feed on organic matter to obtain energy. This organic matter is obtained by feeding on primary consumers such as small rodents, herbivorous birds, small amphibians, among others. Some characteristics of secondary consumers are:

  • They can be both carnivorous and omnivorous secondary consumers.
  • Within the trophic levels they constitute the third, since the base or first are the decomposers, then there are the primary consumers in the second level and then the secondary consumers in the third level. We recommend you read this other post about trophic levels: what they are, what they are and examples .
  • They control the population of primary consumers.
  • They provide energy to tertiary consumers.

Examples of secondary consumers

What are the secondary consumers? In the following, we will show examples of food chains, food chains or trophic chains , highlighting secondary consumers.

  • Is the lion a secondary or tertiary consumer ? The truth is that it feeds mainly on herbivorous mammals, that is, primary consumers, so it can be considered a second-order one, but sometimes it also eats other carnivores, which also makes it tertiary. In fact, it is one of the most well-known secondary consumers of the savannah. An example of the lion in the second level of consumers could be when it feeds on the zebra, as it feeds on different types of herbs.
  • Cats are also secondary consumers as they feed on mice, and there are herbivorous mice that feed only on plants. There are also omnivorous mice that feed on insects, worms or snails, which feed on plants. In this case, the mouse would be the secondary consumer and the cat would become the tertiary consumer.
  • The same thing happens with owls , since sometimes they can be secondary consumers and other times they can become tertiary consumers. They eat mice, small fish, insects, lizards, and other animals.
  • Pumas and jaguars as carnivorous secondary consumers obtain part of their food, feeding on sheep and these on pastures. When pumas and jaguars die, they are decomposed by fungi and bacteria.
  • The praying mantis is also part of the secondary consumers since they feed on butterflies and these on the nectar of flowers.
  • Carnivorous mice are secondary consumers as they feed on snails and snails feed on plant leaves. Mice are food for snakes.
  • Deer are primary consumers that feed on grass and plants and, in turn, these are preyed upon by wolves, bears, tigers, and leopards , among other carnivores that are second-order consumers.
  • The fox is a secondary consumer, it feeds on animals such as deer or rabbits, and the latter two are herbivorous animals, primary consumers within the trophic chain.
  • The dung beetle feeds on excrement and this is preyed upon by lizards and lizards , which are food for some mammals.
  • The smallest birds feed on spiders and these on bees that consume the nectar found in the flowers. In this case the spiders would be the secondary consumer and the birds would be part of the tertiary consumers.
  • Marine phytoplankton are consumed by zooplankton and they feed small mollusks that will be preyed upon by medium-sized fish. The small mollusks in this food chain would be the secondary marine consumers.

Here you can discover more examples of food chains and webs: what they are and examples .

What is required to increase the number of secondary consumers

For this, three key aspects would have to be given:

  • Increase the number of producers so that there is enough food to supply all primary consumers.
  • In addition, and thanks to the increase in producers, the number of primary consumers would have to increase . Thus, if there are enough producers, the number of primary consumers will also grow.
  • Another factor that should be given is the decline in tertiary consumers , who are the predators of secondary consumers.

What if there are no secondary consumers in an ecosystem

In the absence of secondary consumers, there would be an imbalance in the ecosystems and in the food chain itself , since primary consumers, those that generally feed on biomass, would not have predators and, therefore, there would be an overpopulation of primary consumers.

This overpopulation also has a negative consequence on the producers, since they would not have the capacity to regenerate as there are a large number of primary consumers and these, in the end, would find themselves without enough food for all and could cause the extinction of some species, since only those best adapted to the situation would survive.

We recommend that you read these other AgroCorrn articles to learn more about this topic:

What happens if a secondary consuming organism multiplies excessively

Have you ever wondered, what would happen if a second-order consuming organism multiplies excessively?

What would happen is that there would be a competition for food between secondary consumers, since if they multiplied in excess there would not be enough primary consumers to feed all of them. As a consequence, primary consumers would disappear and producers would stop producing as they had no consumers.

What are the primary, secondary, tertiary and quaternary consumers

Different levels are distinguished in the food chain and the food pyramid: decomposers, producers and consumers. However, within consumers you can find different types. In this article we have talked about secondary consumers , although in this section we will briefly talk about the rest of the consumers and their place in the trophic pyramid :

  • Primary consumers: they are herbivorous animals, that is, their food source is the producing organisms. You can learn more about them in this other article about Primary Consumers: what they are and examples .
  • Tertiary consumers: they are animals that feed on secondary consumers and primary consumers, that is, they are carnivores.
  • Quaternary consumers: this type of consumer includes those predatory animals of tertiary consumers, they are also at the highest level of the trophic pyramid. They are also called superpredators and they have no predator that threatens them, as an example we have the human being.
  • Parasites: they are living organisms that receive food from their prey by being linked to it, they do so for periods of time and usually do not kill it, but they do weaken it.

If you want to read more articles similar to Secondary consumers: what they are and examples , we recommend that you enter our Biology category .

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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