Marine Food Chain Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Grace Miller

Mary Grace has taught first grade for 8 years and has a Bachelor's degree in Elementary Education and is licensed in ESL.

What's the difference between a food chain and a food web? How are food chains different in different habitats? This lesson will teach you about all the members of a marine food chain, including producers, herbivores, and consumers.

What Is A Food Chain?

A food chain shows how each living thing gets its food, or energy, and how that energy is passed from one living thing to another. Food chains begin with plants and end with large animals. Each food chain contains producers, who make their own food, and consumers, who either eat food produced by producers or eat other animals.

This is one example of an ocean food chain.
food chain

A food web is similar to a food chain, but it shows how multiple food chains can be connected to each other.

Marine Producers

A producer is a living thing that uses sunlight to create its own food through a process called photosynthesis. In land habitats, trees and grass are examples of producers, but this looks a little different in marine, or water, habitats. In marine habitats, the producers are phytoplankton, which are single-celled organisms that float in water.

A close-up picture of phytoplankton

Because they float on the top of the water, they are able to use sunlight to make their own food.

Marine Consumers

Any living thing that does not make its own food is called a consumer. In marine habitats, both small and large animals can be consumers of phytoplankton, from animals as small as shrimp to as large as manatees! Animals that only eat producers are called primary consumers. Shrimp are primary consumers. Animals that eat primary consumers are called secondary consumers. Some examples or secondary consumers are humpback whales and sea stars. This pattern continues two more times, with tertiary consumers eating secondary consumers and finally apex predators, the animals at the top of the food chain, eating tertiary consumers. Consumers might only eat plants (herbivores), or they might eat smaller animals (carnivores), or maybe they eat both (omnivores)!

Marine Herbivores

An herbivore is an animal that only eats plants and not other animals. In a marine habitat, animals that eat the phytoplankton are considered herbivores. Some examples of marine herbivores are mussels, oysters, and green sea turtles.

Did you know that manatees and an animal called a dugong are the only ocean mammals that are herbivores?

An image of a manatee.

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