8 junio, 2024

Desert food chain: what it is, levels of the chain

What is the desert food chain?

The desert food chain It is composed of the sequence of plants, herbivorous and carnivorous animals, through which energy and materials move within that ecosystem.

The food chain usually consists of a producer, a consumer, and a predator. Everything in the food chain is a cycle: the organism at the top of the desert food chain will eventually die and return to the bottom of the chain in the form of nutrients needed by the decomposer.

The human, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is the top predator in any environment. An example of this is the coyote situation.

The coyote’s natural predator was at one time the wolf, but the wolf was driven out of the wilderness by the human. Now the human takes the place of the wolf, since he and his vehicles are one of the main causes of death for coyotes.

Levels of the desert food chain

First level: producers

Plants, or producers, capture energy from the sun and make up the first level of the chain. Energy is essential for the growth of all organisms and life processes.

Energy enters the food chain through plants, in the form of sunlight. This energy is used by plants to grow and reproduce.

In the desert, some producers include: cacti, grass, and desert shrubs.


There are about 1,750 known species of cacti. They have various shapes and sizes. They live in places where there is a lot of drought, which is why they are adapted to conserve water in their organisms.

Some species are succulents, with thick parts that store water. Others have spines to prevent water loss and to protect themselves from other herbivores.

In cacti, photosynthesis takes place in the stem, since they lack leaves.

Second level: herbivores

Energy begins to move through the food chain when plant tissue is consumed by animals.

In this case, we are talking about insects, reptiles, birds and mammals. Herbivores are animals that only eat plants.

Some herbivores that make up the desert food chain include the tortoise, squirrels, antelope, desert rabbits, and chacahuala.


They are large reptiles that inhabit arid regions, they are part of the iguana family. They are very common in the deserts of North America.

They feed on fruits, leaves, and flowers of perennial plants. It is believed that they prefer to eat the yellow flowers.


Most tortoises are herbivorous. They feed on grass, grass, green leaves, flowers, and some fruits.

Third level: carnivores

After the second level, the food chain moves to the third. At this stage, the tissue of herbivorous animals is eaten by animals such as spiders, snakes, and hawks.

Animals that only eat the meat of other animals are called carnivores.


They are big cat carnivores. They eat desert rabbits, rodents, porcupines, coyotes, and insects. Usually, they attack their prey on the ground, locating them by their scent.


They are very common in deserts. There are thousands of species around the world, each with its different characteristics.

Some species are poisonous. All snakes are carnivorous, feeding on other snakes, small mammals, insects, and eggs.

red tailed hawk

It is a bird that can be found in many habitats. They feed on small mammals such as rodents, reptiles, amphibians, and smaller birds.

Fourth level: carnivores and scavengers

The chain then continues to the fourth level. Here, carnivores eat other carnivores.

An example of this is the spider wasps, or pompilids, that prey on tarantulas. Snakes that eat other snakes, eagles that eat goshawks, and gray foxes that eat shrews.

Omnivores, which feed on both other animals and plants, include earwigs, which eat flies and flowers, colored lizards, which feed on fruit and insects, and coyotes, which eat fruit and small animals.

Animals that feed on decaying organisms are called scavengers. In the desert there are several scavengers, such as worms, which feed on dead plant tissue, or red-headed vultures, which feed on animal carcasses.


They are opportunistic omnivorous animals native to North America. Their diet consists of mice, rats, insects, amphibians, snakes, birds, and some fruits. Coyotes are adaptable predators.

Gila monster

It is a poisonous reptile that usually inhabits the deserts of Mexico and the United States. It is one of two venomous reptiles found in North America.

This reptile is heavy and slow, and can reach 60 cm in length. It usually spends 90% of its time hiding under rocks or in cactus plants.

They feed on small birds, eggs, mammals, frogs, reptiles, insects, and carrion.

Fifth level: decomposers

There are microscopic animals called decomposers. They feed on dead or decaying animal or plant tissue.

In the desert it is difficult for many decomposers to stay alive, since these organisms prefer moist places.

One of the biggest decomposers in deserts are bacteria, which are so small they can live in the air. Over time, these organisms break down all organic matter into carbon dioxide and water.

In this way, these elements can be used by plants in photosynthesis and the cycle can continue again.

Some decomposers in the desert include beetles, millipedes, and worms.


Desert food chain. Recovered from desertusa.com.
Desert producers and consumers. Retrieved from study.com.
Red tail hawk. Recovered from digital-desert.com.

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