Of food chains and webs


Dictionary.com defines a food chain as a series of organisms interrelated in their feeding habits, the smallest being fed upon by a larger one, which in turn feeds a larger one while Merriam-Webster defines it as a series of types of living things in which each one uses the next lower member of the series as a source of food.

And that’s exactly what it is. Business dictionary delves into a more complex definition that it is a linkage of organisms within an ecosystem, in which each link feeds on the one before it and is fed on by the one after it.

This first link in the chain (called herbage) is the producer and all the rest are consumers. Different food chains intertwined with one another form a network that is called a food web. Each link in a food chain is as important as is another. Probably that’s why some scientists argue that we shouldn’t kill insects or certain animals. But the truth of the matter is that the killing and predating is part of how nature is designed to work.

Food chains and food webs are the ways in which energy is transferred from one link/organism to another. The most usual example taught to us to show a food chain and to explain the transfer of energy is Sun provides food for Grass, Grass is eaten by Grasshopper, the Grasshopper is eaten by a Frog, the Frog is eaten by a Snake and the Snake is eaten by the Hawk. Of course when the hawk dies the process continues as insects feed on its decomposing body and insects are in turn fed on by predatory insects or sometimes humans. You get the flow, right?

We humans fall under the category of omnivores, we can feed on both animals and plants. That makes most of us feel so superior to the rest of the team in the chain. And by all means, we probably are.

I mean, that’s why God, (for the religious ones), placed us in charge of all that he had created. We have been given the authority to rule over all the other organisms in the food chain. And for those who aren’t keen on religious authorities, science has proved that we as human beings are the most complex of creatures in existence, and this gives us some kind of superiority.

Where am I going with this? Are we at the top of the food chain really? Aren’t we tempted to see ourselves as indomitable? But are we really. Probably not. Not with the existence of cannibals.

Cannibalism is the act or practice of eating human flesh or internal organs of other human beings. Also called anthropophagy. Some people don’t believe in the existence of cannibals but many occurrences have been reported with cannibals coming out to explain what led to their behaviors and some explain how they enjoyed the process.

It is believed that most, if not all people have a sense of cannibalism in us, we just need enough exposure to difficult situation with hardship and scarcity of food, then the real cannibals in us begin to appear. Scary perhaps? But that’s not the subject of discussion here.

That was simply to remind us that as human beings, we are part of the link and not necessarily the top of the food chain as we have been led to believe.  After all said and done, each organism in the food chain is as important as the next. Why? Because taking the case of the Sun>Grass>Zebra>Lions, too many zebras mean less grass which eventually causes death of the zebras and this affects the lions further up the chain.


Grass, Zebra and Lion

This brings me back to the initial argument I held that we need to protect the environment, because we directly depend on its herbage and indirectly through the animals that feed on this herbage. So through pollution and other activities that do not protect the environment, we are essentially killing ourselves quite literally. Protect the environment, stay alive.