If you’re like most kids, you probably hunt for most of your food in the aisles of your local grocery store. If you’re hungry for some crunchy green vegetables, you can head over to the produce aisle and stalk some wild celery. Or if pizza sounds good, you can hide out in the frozen food aisle until just the right moment to snatch that frozen pizza from the freezer!

In many places around the world — and for wild animals — finding food to sustain life is not nearly as easy as a trip to the supermarket. In the wild, it often comes down to a simple question: are you predator or prey? And the answer is sometimes both!

All living things need energy. Energy comes from the foods we eat. A food chain is a simple way of explaining how each living thing gets its food. For example, a simple African food chain might consist of three parts: (1) trees and bushes; (2) giraffes; and (3) lions. Giraffes eat trees and bushes for food, and lions eat giraffes.

Each link in a food chain is food for the next link. Food chains always start with plants and end with animals.

Plants are at the bottom of the food chain. Scientists call them producers, because they use light energy from the sun to produce food from carbon dioxide and water through photosynthesis.

Animals, unlike plants, can’t produce their own food. Instead, they must eat plants or other animals. This is why scientists call them consumers.

Consumer animals fall into three categories. Herbivores eat only plants. Carnivores eat only other animals. Omnivores eat both plants and animals. What kind of consumer are you?

In addition to producers and consumers, there are also decomposers. These organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, feed on decaying matter. They help the food chain by speeding up the decaying process that releases minerals back into the soil to be absorbed by plants as nutrients.

Most food chains have only four or five links in them. As you go up a food chain, the amount of energy at each level decreases, because some of the energy is lost in the form of waste or is used up by the organism at that level. That is why it takes many plants, for example, to feed a few giraffes who in turn feed one lion.

Most animals are part of many different food chains, because they must eat more than one type of food to satisfy their energy needs. All of these interconnected food chains form a more complex structure called a food web.

Humans, for example, are at the center of a very complex food web, because we tend to eat many different types of plants and animals. And unlike what you may have read in fairy tales, there aren’t many animals that look at humans as food.

The only creatures who might snack on a human are large predators, such as sharks. However, it’s very rare for humans to be eaten by predators. Most predators have more to fear from humans than we have to fear from them!

68 Join the Discussion

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    • YIPPEE!! How exciting that we’ve learned something new together and we have fun doing so, Fitz! Thanks for WONDERing about the WWW– World Wide Web of food! :-)

      • Hey wonderopolis when i click post comment it is not showing up down below its only letting me reply i think,do you have any tips for me?

        • Sure, Logan. You can click on reply below someone else’s comment, or you can leave a comment in the main comment box at the bottom of the page. This will add your comment/reply to the discussion thread. Hope this helps! :-)

    • WOHOO, we think it’s SUPER cool that you enjoyed today’s Wonder, Julie!! It’s so interesting to learn about those food chain fears! Thanks for sharing your comment, Julie! :)

  1. The food chain, I thought that the lions don’t eat the giraffe because of the legs? And, what kind of animal can eat a ostrich, it has a deadly kicking leg? And also, what also eats or attacks people? :-) :-(

    • Great job WONDERing about the food chain Wonder, Carlos!! We bet there is a great deal of research available online that will help you Wonder about your giraffe, lions and ostrich questions!! Keep up the great work, Carlos! :)

  2. I think that today’s wonder was cool. The video was funny too, but I didin’t get the part at the end. I think that tomorrow’s wonder is going to be about practical jokes.

    • Thanks for your comment, Pickle Boy! We are glad to hear you liked our video and had a good time learning about the food chain! Super guess for tomorrow– we will see you very soon!! :)

    • A big hello to all the WONDERful students in Stemmet’s class! We couldn’t be happier that you have joined us here at Wonderopolis! We can’t wait for you to Wonder with us tomorrow!! :)

  3. Hi! I’m in Mrs. Caplin’s class. The video was really cool to watch! I think that tomorrow’s wonder will be about magic tricks or April Fools Tricks.

    • SUPER guessing, Mookie the Cat! Thanks for joining us today as we Wondered about the food chain– we are glad you liked watching the video and learned about each link in the chain! We can’t wait to see you tomorrow! :)

  4. Wow. I didn’t know that humans were the center of a food chain either. I think tomorrow’s WONDER will be about pulling pranks. Just like Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter.

    Emily

    • We love that you learned something new with us, Emily!! We think you’ve been doing a great job WONDERing on your own– and we can’t wait to uncover tomorrow’s Wonder– it will make you smile! Just like those Weasley twins!! :)

  5. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about optical illusions. The wonder of the day® was great i didn’t know that we where 19th in the middle I thought that we where like the 3rd or something like that.

    • YIPPEEE, we are so happy that you’re WONDERing with us, Joleen!! You have learned something new and that makes us smile from ear to ear! Thanks for sharing your AWESOME Wonder guess with us tomorrow– we can’t wait to begin another adventure together! :)

  6. I think today’s video was funny. I thought a carnivore would be in the center of the food chain but I was wrong so I learned something new from this wonder today.

    • CONGRATS, Ayush7, we both learned something new together! Today’s Wonder really taught us a lot, and we are so glad you enjoyed WONDERing with us about the food chain! We’re sending you a virtual high five!! :)

  7. Haha that video was quite funny! I really liked the wonder of the day® today wonderopolis! Even though humans are at the top of the food chain, it really annoys me how some people think that they own the world when we only really own about 1/8 because the earth 3/4 covered, that leaves 1/4, then there are animals so half that = 1/8 :D Some people need to realize that the earth doesn’t revolve around them! IT REVOLVES AROUND THE SUN!!! :) But I guess that just my opinion! :) I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about MAGIC OR MAGICIANS!! See you tomorrow! :D
    Anna.

    • Hey there, Anna, thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us at Wonderopolis! You have done some WONDERful research on your own about the food chain and the earth– way to go!! We really value your comments and are so happy that today’s Wonder sparked your interest in learning more about the relationships between humans and food!

      Thanks for guessing and WONDERing with us, Anna! See you soon! :)

    • Great WONDERing, Maya! We are so happy that you’ve been doing some research of your own about our food chain Wonder! Although it may sound like an actual chain, the idea of a food chain provides a visual for us in order to understand it! :)

      Keep up the great WONDERing and thinking on a global level! We are so proud of you! :)

  8. I LOVED today’s video. I’m pretty sure the food chain in the video is sun, plant, mouse, bird, alligator, human. I think tomorrow’s wonder will be about jokes or someone who tells jokes.

    • You’ve made some great observations, Jamez!! You did a WONDERful job pointing out the different links in the food chain video! NICE WORK! We can’t wait to Wonder again with you tomorrow! :)

  9. Food chains and food webs are a huge part of 5th grade science so I am excited to see so many MC students reading about the chain. It is neat that some are learning new facts, others are making predictions for tomorrow’s wonder and even if you’re a little confused that is ok also. That is how we all learn. Can’t wait to check in with all the MC students tomorrow at school.

    • How right you are, Mrs. Caplin– thanks for sharing your WONDERful comment today! There is so much to learn, and we all learn in different ways. We are so happy when our Wonder Friends ask questions, think outside the box and have a great time using their imaginations! We are so happy to have all of these WONDERful Friends here! :)

  10. I’m with with Ayush on this one. The video WAS hilarious!!!! I never new we were at the center of the food chain. I think tomorrow’s wonder of the day will be about jokes.

    • Not to worry, Tiauna– as long as you’re using your imagination at Wonderopolis it’s all for fun! You have been doing a great job guessing and we hope you have been having a great time WONDERing, too! :)

    • Thank you for posting your AWESOME comment, Alex the minecrafter! We are SO happy to learn that you liked WONDERing about the food chain with us– it’s so much FUN to learn something new with great friends like you! :)

    • WOHOO, Hockey2399, we are so EXCITED that you liked learning about the prey in our food chain Wonder! We are smiling from ear to ear– thanks for leaving your WONDERful comment! :)

  11. Hey wonderopolis I’m back again today! I just wanted to say, that I didn’t actually do research it all came out of my brain! General knowlege is one of my strong points! Just wanted to let you know!! :)
    Anna

    • WOW, thanks for sharing your comment, Anna! You must have what some people call a “sponge brain”– you are able to retain AWESOME amounts of information! Great job on being great at general knowledge– we think it’s so cool that you have shared that information with all of us here at Wonderopolis! We are so lucky to have a great Wonder Friend like you! Welcome back! :)

    • Hey there Aimee, thanks for your WONDERful comment! We love to learn that you enjoyed our food chain Wonder and your guess is SUPER, too! We hope you like the next Wonder– have a GREAT day! :)

    • Hey there Erin, we are glad you liked the video about the food chain! We think the video was funny, but also made us think about every human, creature and insect’s importance in the food chain! We are so glad to hear you’re WONDERing with us today! :)

    • Cool, Sam! We are glad you enjoyed this food chain Wonder– what was your favorite part? It sounds like you’re a fan of the X-Factor! We bet you can do some research of your own to find out who is behind that show! :)

  12. I am so glad that we are at the top of the food chain, but how are we at the top of the food chain if other organisms can eat us?

    • Hey there, Micah, thanks for sharing your comment! Humans are at the top of the food chain because for the most part, we consume the majority of the plants and animals in the world. However, sometimes that’s not always true (but that usually happens when humans are in wild animals’ territories)! Thanks for using your imagination with us today! :)

    • Great question, Melanda! Sometimes predatory animals are smaller than humans, especially when they don’t recognize what a human looks like. This is one reason that humans might scare animals! :)

    • Great question, Paige! You can be very specific with types of plants and animal species and have many, many links in the food chain. Or you can use a simple food chain and use general information, like “plants”, “animals”, and “humans”! :)

    • Hey Paige, great question! While sometimes shark attacks can happen, it’s often a rare occurrence. Therefore, we are still at the top of the food chain. Thanks for WONDERing with us today! :)

    • We’re so glad to hear you and your son enjoy WONDERing with us, Henry! Thanks for hanging out in Wonderopolis and sharing this awesome comment! We appreciate you BOTH, Wonder Friends! :D

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Have you ever wondered…

  • Who’s at the top of the food chain?
  • What is a food web?
  • Do humans have any predators?

Wonder Gallery

superhero pool_shutterstock_64455862Vimeo Video

Try It Out

Ready to put what you learned into action? Grab a friend or family member and head online to play The Food Chain Game! If you correctly assemble the food chain, it will come to life and you can watch it in action!

You can also visit National Geographic Explorer! to watch an animated movie about food chains and then take a quiz to see how much you learned. If you’re curious about where a particular animal falls in the food chain, visit What Eats? online and type the name of an animal in the search box to see where it falls in the food chain!

Still Wondering

In National Geographic Xpeditions’ The Antarctic Food Chain lesson, children are introduced to the animals of Antarctica and to the Antarctic food chain.

Wonder What’s Next?

Tomorrow’s tricky Wonder of the Day might just fool you!

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