Secondary Consumer Definition
As the name implies, a secondary consumer is the consumer organism that occupies the second position on the food chain. As such, these are organisms that eat primary consumers for obtaining energy. Here, a primary consumer can be defined as the organism (animals) that consume only plants. However, not all secondary consumers are carnivores. This group includes omnivores too. As one might be aware already, omnivores are the organisms that consume both plant and animal stuff.
Food Chain and Secondary Consumers
As mentioned above, the secondary consumer occupies the second position among the consumers in the food chain. So, what’s above and below these secondary consumers? As such, the food chain starts with the primary producers or the plants. We call the plants as primary producers because they have the ability to synthesize their own food and energy by using sunlight. The position, next to the primary producers in the food chain, will be occupied by the primary consumers that primarily depend on producers for their food and energy. As mentioned above, the secondary consumers will depend upon the primary consumers for their food.
Now, it’s to be noted that the food chain doesn’t necessarily end with the secondary consumers. Rather, it would stop with the top predators. For instance, the food chain would stop with a secondary consumer if no animals feed upon it. On the other hand, there are tertiary and even quaternary consumers that feed on secondary consumers and subsequent tertiary consumers in the food chain. So, basically, the top predator will be at the top of the food chain and it will be the final consumer.
Types of Secondary Consumers
As mentioned earlier, secondary consumers include carnivores and omnivores, which mean these are the two types of secondary consumers. In simple terms, carnivores are the animal species that feed only on the meat of other animals. Examples include snakes, seals, lizard, mouse, fish, and so on. On the other hand, omnivores are the animals that feed both on plants, as well as animals. Some examples include vultures, foxes, bears, cockroaches, and so on.
Nature of Secondary Consumers
In general, the secondary consumers can be seen in all shapes and sizes, and they exist in almost all the habitats on the planet. They can even be found in the extreme settings like tundras, Arctic Circle, and arid lands. Irrespective of their habitat, all the secondary consumers have one thing in common, which is the type of food they consume.
A large number of secondary consumers can be found in the aquatic systems because they have plenty of food sources for these. On the other hand, terrestrial habitats also can support the secondary consumers as they have adapted to exist in all types of ecosystem.
Role of Secondary Consumers in the Ecosystem
The secondary consumers have an important role to play in the food chain by controlling the primary consumer population. In addition, these secondary consumers are also acting as a source of food and energy to the tertiary consumers. Thus, if there is no sufficient number of secondary consumers available, then the tertiary consumers will be put starvation and even extinction. At the same time, if there are large numbers of second consumers than normal, then they will consume more primary consumers and make them go extinct. Thus, a balance in the number of secondary consumers is important to maintain the proper functioning of the ecosystem. Too low and too high numbers of them will disrupt the natural order.