Secondary consumers


Different types of consumers coexist in the food chain of our ecosystem, including secondary consumers . Like the rest of the varieties that complete the consumption pyramid, they play a fundamental role in natural harmony. How many species make up the group, such as dogs, cats or chickens, which obtain energy by ingesting some of the living beings that make up the first link.


What are secondary consumers?

Secondary consumers are all living beings that include species of the first level , which are herbivores, in their energy diet . Without feeding on them they would not survive. Although they are usually carnivores, they can also add herbs and vegetables to their menu. His way of eating is called heterotrophic.

  • Characteristics of secondary consumers
  • Differences
  • Secondary consumer types
  • Classification
  • Hunting methods
  • Features
  • Importance of secondary consumers
  • Examples of secondary consumers

Characteristics of secondary consumers

The main characteristics of secondary consumers are:

  • Their diet is based on herbivorous entities , that is, those who are considered primary consumers .
  • They eat meat (carnivores). Most almost exclusively.
  • They are nourished in a heterotrophic way, they get energy by eating other living beings.
  • According to their habitat and environmental circumstances, they can also be herbivores. If so, they become omnivores.
  • The context in which they unfold can make them act as different consumers (tertiary and primary).
  • They are usually mammals
  • Often the prey they eat are alive (they hunt). Few consume dead animals , if they do they are not decomposed.
  • There are very large and small sizes.
  • They inhabit land and water. Environmental environments are variable, they even live in extreme places.
  • Most have teeth, claws, and hard and sharp beaks for hunting and eating.
  • They are third-party at the trophic level.


The most relevant discrepancy between the members of the first group of consumers and the second, is that the primary consumers only consume vegetables, algae, herbs and similar entities, that is, they are exclusively herbivores. They do not eat meat . Among these are species such as rabbits, giraffes and cows. On the other hand, for a living being to be considered the second order of the chain, it must necessarily have primary species in its food source, which makes them carnivores.

Meanwhile, the tertiary consumers are the species whose food extends to the primary and secondary types. They are often told to position themselves at the end of the chain. It is the line very ferocious and voracious animals of great dimension such as certain types of sharks and felines of Africa are found. Although it is not conceived as basic, there is also a fourth link, which some scientists call quaternary consumers. This space would include those who do not have predators and eat from the previous three. Humans would enter the rankings.

Secondary consumer types

According to the supplies ingested by the living beings contained in the second link of consumption, they can be classified into two groups: omnivores and carnivores.

  • Omnivores : The diet of these living things includes animals and vegetation. The condition is given by the need to adapt to the ecosystem where they are developing. So they get their energy from both types of food, directly of plant origin (grass, herbs, algae) and from beings that eat vegetables. For example, the bear.
  • Carnivores : They eat animals from the primary stall only. They are considered predators, as they go hunting to provide a livelihood. Some of small dimensions feed on herbivores larger than their own size to satisfy their energy requirement. An example is snakes.

Fluctuating consumers

Secondary consumers fluctuate several times with the types of provisions they take in. For example, depending on the season or environmental conditions, they can spend a long time as herbivores. For example, foxes and wolves. They recover their meat intake when the habitat is suitable.


Another classification that groups secondary consumers is one that deals with the way in which they obtain food. It can be in three ways:

  • True predators : here are those who capture their prey, kill it almost immediately after the attack and devour it completely. Also, some eat only a certain part or are even satisfied. For example birds of prey.
  • Parasites: They eat only a portion of their prey. There is little variety of animals chosen by them to survive. They feed slowly. Horses are victims of this type of parasitic species, common in their intestines.
  • Ramoneadores: They do not necessarily kill their prey for food, as they do so gradually. Little by little they consume them and sometimes they weaken them. In the course of its existence the variety of prey is numerous. We can name mosquitoes that bite herbivores like cows.

Hunting methods

Secondary consumers employ different hunting methods, including:

  • Strategic : Large secondary consumers such as African cats resort to strategy to hunt prey. It is often the females who carry out the task and often accompanied by other herd mates. They use precise methods to secure, surround the victim and guarantee the attack.
  • In a pack : Animals such as wolves are also strategic in their hunting methodology but they do it in groups. They tend to ambush, although they also take advantage of the carelessness of other hunters to steal their food. They share what they have achieved with the members of the clan.
  • Variable : They do not mind hunting in packs or alone, they do it according to the circumstances. Among these beings of secondary consumption are the cheetahs.
  • Solo : Stalking is their method and they go hunting alone. They watch their target for a long time until it becomes careless and surprise it by attacking. These include pumas and Asian tigers.
  • Accurate vision : Hunting birds look at their food with precision from above. Their wide and sharp visual range makes them catch fish that move through the waters or fast land herbivores such as rabbits. An example is hawks.


Secondary consumers have the following roles:

  • Provide energy and serve food to other members of the food system on the earth’s surface, such as tertiary consumers.
  • Maintain the fine balance in the consumer pyramid. Their presence avoids the shortage of provisions for those of the third consumer group .
  • An excess of primary animals also alters the order, for this reason the secondary ones exercise a type of natural control so that this does not happen.

Importance of secondary consumers

The vegetative generation as well as other living entities that feed or receive energy content from themselves, that is, they produce them for themselves and survive, must be greater than those that do not. These beings make up the base of the food web . They generate 100 of your energy. By eating, the secondary consumer obtains only 1% of that energy load. For this reason, the links that eat and originate plants are necessarily more numerous. Following these patterns gives more energy to the other floors in the chain.

However, this need for the ecosystem does not reduce the importance of the presence of secondary species. These have the role of balancing the process , which due to multiple circumstances (including the action of man) is delicately vulnerable. If there are not enough of these animals that prey to herbivores, there would be an overpopulation that would reduce the energy availability of the self-sufficient ones. They also indirectly help the plant population, since several eat insects that are classified as a pest for agricultural crops.

All beings fulfill a fundamental biological role to maintain the order of nature. There is an intrinsic dependency between them. The disappearance of some may cause the extinction of others.

Examples of secondary consumers

Some examples of secondary consumers are:

  • Aquatic: small sharks, piranhas, shrimp, starfish, whales (ingest krill by filtration), moray eel, archer fish, viper fish, jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus.
  • Parasites: Worms, amoebas.
  • Those who eat parasites that feed on plants: Ladybugs.
  • Mollusks : they acquire their nutrients from bivalve and planktivorous fish , such as squid.
  • Reptiles: Yacarés (deer hunt)
  • Amphibians: those that capture flying insects, such as toads.
  • Birds that feed on zooplankton : Flamingos.
  • Birds of prey: eagle, hawk, hawk.
  • Felines: They hunt large herbivores such as sheep or zebras. Example, lions and cougars.

Without any order we can name other outstanding secondary consumers such as: owl, snake, owl, alligator, cheetah, panther, chameleon, leopard, condor, salamander, praying mantis, seals, skunks, chickens, dogs, cats.

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