Parasitic Food Chain Definition

Parasitic food chain is a type of food chain that starts from herbivore, but the food energy transfers from larger organisms to smaller organisms, without killing in case of a predator. Thus, the larger animals are known to be the hosts and the smaller living organisms which acquire nutrition from the hosts are known to be the parasites. In this type of food chain, either the producer or the consumer is parasitized. Therefore, the food passes on to smaller living organisms.

Implications of Parasite in a food chain

  • A parasite is an organism that lives inside or on another living organism in order to survive.
  • A parasite in a food chain is capable of changing the flow of energy in the food chain.
  • All parasites are considered to be consumers. Therefore, parasites in a food chain are related to organisms that the parasite can consume.
  • Parasites in a food chain are overlooked mostly, but affect the flow of energy in a food chain.
  • The pyramid of numbers shows the total number of organisms in a trophic level. In a parasitic food chain, the shape of the pyramid is inverted. This is because the number of producers is low and primary consumers (herbivores) have more number of organisms. After this, we see secondary consumers like carnivores.
  • In this pyramid, the majority of individual organisms are found at the top trophic level. These individuals are known as hyperparasites.
  • But the number of bacteria and fungi are found in large amounts in a parasitic food chain.

Example of parasitic food chain

  1. For example, producers are consumed by herbivores, which are infected by parasites and these parasites are consumed by hyperparasites.
  2. Another example of a parasitic food chain begins where trees are consumed by fruit-eating birds. Later, these birds feed on lice and other insects. And these insects feed on microscopic organisms like bacteria and fungi.

Frequently Asked Questions on Parasitic food chain

What is the shape of the pyramid in a parasitic food chain?

The shape of the pyramid in a parasitic food chain is inverted, as the number of bacteria and fungi are comparatively more than producers and secondary consumers.

What does a parasitic food chain begin with?

A parasitic food chain starts with herbivores.

Where do parasites fit in the food chain?

Parasites are rarely found in food webs as it is difficult to quantify them. Due to their tiny size, parasites are hidden inside the host.

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