Primary Consumers: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 What Is a Primary Consumer?
  • 2:10 Examples of Primary Consumers
  • 3:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Adrianne Baron

Adrianne has a master's degree in cancer biology and has taught high school and college biology.

Learn all about primary consumers and become familiar with some examples of them. After reading the lesson, the quiz will test your knowledge of primary consumers and your ability to recognize examples.

What is a Primary Consumer?

If you are like a lot of people, you have probably bought a used car before. So, you may be thinking, 'What is there to learn about a primary consumer?' It's obviously the first person to buy something, like the person that I bought the used car from, right? That may be true in the regular world, but a primary consumer has a slightly different meaning in the scientific world. Scientists needed a way to identify and classify the passing of energy through food consumption among living organisms. In order to fully understand this concept, we need to remember that plants are also living organisms in addition to animals, fungi, and bacteria. Every living organism has a classification in the consumer rankings.

Let's go back to the first person buying a car for a minute. What has to happen before a person can buy the car? The car has to be made or produced, right? The same is true for living organisms. In order for any organism to consume food, the food must be produced. The production of food comes from the producers, which are the photosynthetic plants.

Photosynthetic plants go through the process of photosynthesis in order to make their own food from light, and therefore, energy. After completing photosynthesis, the plants contain energy that can be passed on to other living organisms when the plants are eaten. The living organisms that eat the producers are then considered to be the primary consumers, similarly to how the first person to buy a car is the primary consumer of that particular car.

The primary consumers now have energy, and other organisms that are called secondary consumers can eat them. Secondary consumers are those organisms whose main food source is primary consumers. This is similar to you as the second consumer of the car. Even the secondary consumers have energy to pass on and can then be consumed by the tertiary consumer. These consumers are those who feed mostly on secondary consumers.

As you may have guessed by this point, the tertiary consumer is just like the person that may buy the used car from you. Now that you know what a primary consumer is, let's look at some examples.

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