Food Chains and Ecosystems

Adaptations of Animals:

An adaptation is a characteristic of a living thing that helps it survive in its environment.

An environment includes everything living and non-living in the area that a plant or animal lives in.

All living things have adaptations, even humans.

Adaptations are the result of evolution.

Evolution is a change in a species over long periods of time.

Animals adapt to protect themselves.

→ Some adaptations are behavioral, allowing them to act a certain way to avoid being seen by a predator.

→ Some adaptations make animals difficult to eat

→ Example: armadillos are covered with“armored” plates and can roll into a tight ball when they feel threatened.

Adaptations help animals obtain food.

→ Example: Hummingbirds have long, skinny beaks that help them drink nectar deep inside of flowers. This way, along with its ability to hover over flowers, make the hummingbird very specialized, since they can access hard to obtain food sources and avoid competition with other birds.

Some animals have unique adaptations.

→ Giraffes have special tongues that can pull leaves from branches and reach food sources that other animals can not reach.

Adaptations Vocab Words:

Adaptation - A body part, body covering, or behavior that helps an animal survive in its environment.

Behavior - The actions of an animal.

Camouflage - A color or shape in an animal's body covering that helps it blend into its environment.

Environment - Everything that surrounds and affects a living thing. The environment includes non-living things, such as water and air, as well as other living things.

Habitat - The place where an animal lives. The physical characteristics of an animal's surroundings.

Mimicry - An adaptation in which an otherwise harmless animal looks like a harmful animal in order to protect itself.

Predator - An animal that hunts and eats other animals for food.

Prey - An animal that is taken and eaten by another animal (predator) for food.

Structural adaptations are physical features of an organism like the bill on a bird or the fur on a bear.

Behavioral adaptations are things organisms do to survive like bird calls and migration.

Food Chains

Every living thing needs energy in order to survive and grow.

Animals get energy from the food they eat, and all living things get energy from food.

Food chains show how each organism (living thing) obtains energy from another organism.

In this simple food chain, you can see the transfer of energy from the grass to the rabbit (primary consumer) and then finally the fox (secondary consumer), since the fox eats the rabbit and the rabbit eats the grass.

Producers - organisms that make their own food, like plants. They use light energy from the sun to produce food (sugar) from carbon dioxide and water.

Consumers - Animals cannot make their own food so they must eat plants and/or other animals.

→ herbivores (primary consumers) → animals that only eat plants

→ carnivores (secondary, tertiary consumers) → animals that eat other animals

→ omnivores → animals that can eat both plants and animals (like humans)

→ decomposers (bacteria, fungi, works) → feed on decaying matter, release nutrients back into the food chain for absorption by plants, breaks down dead organisms and their wastes

Predator / Prey:

→ Predators - kill for food, either secondary or tertiary consumers - examples: polar bears, golden eagles

→ Prey - organisms that predators feed on

Examples of predator and prey species are: fox and rabbit; blue tit and caterpillar; wolf and lamb


An ecosystem is all of the living things, which includes plants and animals that are living within a certain area. It also includes how these plants and animals interact with each other and the world around them (climate).


Aquatic Ecosystem – ecosystem that occurs in water (puddle, lake, river, ocean)

Terrestrial Ecosystems – ecosystem that exists outside of water-- on land (deserts, mountains, forests, and the tundra)

Ecosystem Organization

An ecosystem can be separated into various levels, with each level consisting of more organisms and environmental factors.

Trophic levels of organization:

Individual – an individual is any living organism within an ecosystem

Population – a group of individuals of the same species that all live within the ecosystem

Community – all of the various populations of different organisms living with an area

Ecosystem – describes how all of the living things in a given area interact with each other and their environment

Biome – a collection of ecosystems that are similar in their basic makeup and characteristics

Biosphere – all of the different ecosystems and biomes on the entire planet

Individual → Population → Community → Ecosystem → Biome → Biosphere

Biotic vs. Abiotic

Biotic - living factor; include animals, plants, fungi, bacteria, protists

Abiotic - nonliving factor; include water, soil, air, sunlight, temperature, minerals


Check your answers after you've taken the quiz!

Quiz Answers:







7. D, E, G

8. A

9. B

10. C