Trophic Levels – Definition and Examples

Introduction to Trophic Level

A trophic level refers to a step in a nutritive series or food chain in an ecosystem. Simply speaking, the trophic level of an organism is the number of steps it is from the point when the food chain begins.

Furthermore, the classification of organisms of a chain is into these levels according to their feeding behaviour. Students can learn more about trophic levels and its examples here. The trophic level diagram is below.

trophic level

Definition and Meaning of Trophic Level

The trophic level of an organism refers to a position occupied by it in a food chain. A food chain refers to a succession of organisms that consume other organisms and they may be consumed themselves. Simply speaking, the trophic level of an organism is the number of steps it is from the point when the food chain begins.

A food chain begins at trophic level 1 which involves primary producers. Then it moves on to level 2 which consists of the herbivorous.

From then on, the food chain continues to level 3 of the carnivorous organisms. Finally, the food chain ends at level 4 or 5 with the apex predators.

Primary Producers of Trophic Level

The primary producers are also known as autotrophs. These refer to organisms that produce biomass from the inorganic compounds.

Generally speaking, these are photosynthesizing organisms such as algae or plants. Furthermore, they convert energy from the sun unto glucose by using water and carbon dioxide.

The storage of glucose takes place within the plant as energy and oxygen. The primary producers release oxygen into the atmosphere.

Probably all primary production in the terrestrial ecosystem comes under the vascular plants. These vascular plants are ferns, flowering plants, and trees.

In the marine ecosystem, seaweed and algae carry on the role of primary production. Furthermore, there are certain deep-sea primary producers that facilitate oxidization of the chemical inorganic compounds rather than photosynthesis.

Primary Consumers of Trophic Level

Primary consumers include the herbivorous. These are animals which adapt to consuming and digesting plants and algae. Herbivores are split into two main categories.

The first category comprises of grazers which include cows, sheep, and rabbit. The diet of grazers is 90% of grass. The second category is the browsers who consist of goats and deer. Furthermore, the diet of browsers consists of 90% tree twigs and twigs.

Secondary Consumers of Trophic Level

Secondary consumers come at trophic level 3. These consist of the carnivores and omnivores.

Furthermore, the secondary consumers get at least some of their nutrients from the herbivores. Moreover, this category also includes animals and plants that consume herbivores insects.

Secondary consumers usually include small animals. Furthermore, these small animals include frogs, weasels, snakes, some fishes, and birds. Larger predators like lions and eagles can also exist within the second trophic level.

In the marine ecosystem, every species which consumes zooplankton are secondary consumers. In marine ecosystems, examples of secondary consumers are jellyfish, sardines, crabs, whales, etc.

Tertiary Consumers of Trophic Level

Tertiary consumers receive energy by consuming other carnivores and they may also be consumed themselves by others. Owls are an excellent example of tertiary consumers.

Moreover, owls feed on mice and other herbivores organisms. Furthermore, owls can also consume secondary consumers like staots.

Apex Predators of Trophic Level

Apex Predators refers to organisms which exist at the top of the food chain. Furthermore, they do not have any natural predators who can consume them. Examples of apex predators include eagles, wolves, tigers, lions. Among the marine animals, examples include sharks, tuna, whales, dolphins etc.

Solved Question For You

Q1. Which of the following is not an example of the trophic level?

A. Primary Producers
B. Inorganic producers
C. Secondary Consumers
D. Tertiary Consumers

A1. The correct option is option B., which is inorganic producers. This is because there is no such thing as inorganic producers in the food chain.
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