Rainforest Food Chains

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  • 0:00 What Is a Food Chain?
  • 1:18 The Rainforest
  • 2:08 Jaguar Food Chain
  • 2:43 Anteater Food Chain
  • 3:23 Importance
  • 4:03 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

This lesson is on rainforest food chains. In this lesson, we'll go over what a rainforest is and where they are, as well as some food chain basics. Then, we'll get into two specific food chains in the Amazon Rainforest.

What Is a Food Chain?

It's almost pitch black on the forest floor. Despite getting the most sunlight of any other area, the rainforest floor is covered in darkness as the canopy absorbs all the sunlight. An entirely new world dwells below the canopy. Howler monkeys screech and the bushes rustle with bugs, rodents, monkeys and larger predators. It's eat or be eaten in this jungle madness. As it turns out, scientists have a way of keeping track of who eats who. It's called a food chain, and it's the focus of this lesson.

A food chain shows the linear transfer of energy between species in an ecosystem. The energy moves between species as food. So, basically, a food chain shows what eats what. The food chain is organized into layers called trophic levels. At the bottom, trophic level are the producers. Producers make their own food and are the base of the food chain. Primary consumers eat the producers. They only eat plants, so they are also known as herbivores. Next up, we have the carnivores, or secondary consumers, that eat the primary consumers. At the very top of the food chain are the tertiary consumers, or top predators. These guys eat the primary and secondary consumers, keeping the ecosystem in balance.

The Rainforest

A rainforest is a large area of land characterized by heavy rainfall and lush vegetation. Most of us think of the Amazon Rainforest, but rainforests exist elsewhere in the world as well. Rainforests exist in colder climates too, like Olympic National Park in Washington state. Additional tropical rainforests dot the land of Southeast Asia in Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Although we typically think of Africa as a desert, Western Africa and parts of Madagascar have some of the greatest biodiversity in any rainforest.

Because of the warm temperatures in tropical rainforests, heavy rainfall, and lush vegetation, rainforests are home to millions of species that exist nowhere else in the world. Today, we'll explore the food chain for two of those species.

Jaguar Food Chain

The jaguar is a large cat weighing up to 200 pounds and growing up to six feet in length. They live exclusively in the Amazon Rainforest in Central and South America. These cats are a top predator in their environment. They feed on caiman, large crocodiles in the Amazon River that are secondary consumers. Caiman and jaguars both feed on primary consumers like capybara and tapirs. The primary consumers eat the beautiful vegetation that covers the trees and canopy of the Amazon. Capybaras eat grass, reeds, and fruit that are producers.

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