What Are the Two Major Types of Food Chains?

Types of Food Chains

Food chains are linear paths of energy and nutrients that flow from one organism to the next. There are two major types of food chains: grazing and detrital.

Grazing Food Chains

Grazing food chains start with a primary producer, such as a plant. These plants get their energy from sunlight and indirectly from the soil and air. Animals, such as those in the grassland, consume the plants and transfer the energy to predators and scavengers higher in the food chain. Examples of such animals are zebras, impalas, eagles, and cheetahs.

Detrital Food Chains

Detrital food chains begin with dead organisms and detritus—the nonliving organic matter that accumulates on the ground. These detritus are broken down by decomposers, such as fungi and bacteria, into smaller pieces. This organic material is then consumed by organisms, such as beetles and worms, higher up in the food chain.

In both grazing and detrital food chains, the energy and nutrients enter the soil when the organism dies and is decomposed by the decomposers. The cycle then begins again with the process of photosynthesis in plants.


In summary, there are two major types of food chains: grazing and detrital. Grazing food chains encompass all the process from the primary producers, such as plants, to the top predators, whereas detrital food chains include the process of breaking down dead organisms and detritus by decomposers and then transferring this energy to other organisms higher up in the food chain. Both of these food chains are integral parts to an ecosystem and a biological community.

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