Trophic Level
Energy Transfer and Food Chain

The word “trophic level” describes an organism’s location in the food chain.  An organism occupying the lowest trophic level is at “the bottom of the food chain”–plants would be an example of this because everyone can eat it.  On the contrary, if an organism has the highest trophic level, it is at the top of the food chain–an example would be lions.

20170527d trophic level
(Click to Enlarge)

In a food chain, you can see that energy is transferred from 1 trophic level to another.  For example, when a wolf eats a rabbit, the rabbit’s energy transfers into the wolf.

Scientists also give names to each trophic level.

  • The lowest trophic level is called the “producer“.
  • The next level is the “primary consumer“.  They eat the producer.
  • The 3rd level is the “secondary consumer“.  They eat the primary consumer…In other words, they are meat eaters.
  • The 4th level is the “tertiary consumer“.  Many animals in this level are considered as the top predators, such as lions, bears, tigers…etc.

Next Generation Science Standards:

MS-LS2-1. Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for the effects of resource availability on organisms and populations of organisms in an ecosystem.

MS-LS2-2. Construct an explanation that predicts patterns of interactions among organisms across multiple ecosystems.

MS-LS2-3. Develop a model to describe the cycling of matter and flow of energy among living and nonliving parts of an ecosystem.

MS-LS2-4. Construct an argument supported by empirical evidence that changes to physical or biological components of an ecosystem affect populations.

HS-LS1-5. Use a model to illustrate how photosynthesis transforms light energy into stored chemical energy.

HS-LS2-3. Construct and revise an explanation based on evidence for the cycling of matter and flow of energy in aerobic and anaerobic conditions.

HS-LS2-4. Use mathematical representations to support claims for the cycling of matter and flow of energy among organisms in an ecosystem.

HS-LS2-5. Develop a model to illustrate the role of photosynthesis and cellular respiration in the cycling of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, and geosphere.

What Science Does this Comic Teach?

Unit: Anatomy and Phsiology

⇒Chapter: Cycles of Energy

⇒Topic: Trophic Level

Additional Information


It means a “living thing”…  Whether it is big (such as a dog) or small (such as a bacterium), all living things are called “organisms”.

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