Food Chain vs. Food Web: What's the Difference?

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Key Difference

Food is the basic source of energy for all organisms in the ecosystem. The flow of food is from one organism to another. So, a series or chain of organisms in which each of them depends on one and other as a source of food or energy is called a food chain, whereas food web is a system of many food chains that are dependent on each other for the source of food. The food chain is a straight chain of food flow from one producer to the following consumers. An example can be given as a hawk is at the top of a food chain because hawk eats a snake while snake eats grasshopper which has eaten grass (producer). But a food web is not a straight chain; it has many food chains interconnected with each other. For example, if we take above food chain as an example, the grass is not only eaten by a grasshopper, the rabbit also eats it. Further snake eats rabbit and grasshopper. Other than that, Hawk also eats rabbit and snake as well. By another side, the rabbit is also eaten by a fox and many other consumers. These all food chains are interconnected with each other, and they collectively make up a big food web.

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Comparison Chart

Food ChainFood Web
DefinitionThe food chain is straight and is small and less complex.A food web is like a network in which many organisms are involved. It is comparatively very large.
Producers, Consumers & PredatorsFood chain includes and starts from one producer and ends at one top predator.Food web has many producers, consumers, and numerous top predators.
FlowIn the food chain, food flows in a linear pathway.In a food web, food flows in different ways at different levels.
StabilityA single or separate food chain creates instability in our ecosystemFood web stabilizes the ecosystem.

What is Food Chain?

The food chain is a straight chain or model that shows the simple flow of food from one organism to another. It starts from a very first producer that are mostly plants and it flow from one consumer to another and finally ends at the apex consumer or top predator. This predator is not commonly eaten by someone when it dies; it is decomposed by the decomposers in soil or environment. In this way, energy is given back to the environment and its may be reused by the producers as nutrient or minerals. The first organism from which the food chain starts is known as a producer because it produces its food by itself: like plants produce food by photosynthesis rather than eating anything and further organism are named the primary consumers, secondary consumers, etc. according to their number. The length of food chain depends on the number of organisms involved in it. An example of the food chain is as: hawk eats a snake while snake eats grasshopper which has eaten grass (producer).

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What is Food Web?

A food web is a system of food chains that are interconnected to each other at many levels. A food web is much larger than the food chain, and it’s not straight like a food chain. The A food web is also called food cycle. Food web includes many populations of producers that are further eaten by the number of consumers of different communities. There are so many consumers eating others at different tropical level. This food web does not end at a single predator; it has many top predators in it. An example of the food web is as the grass is not only eaten by grasshopper, it is also eaten by a rabbit or squirrel. Now snake eats rabbit, squirrel, and the grasshopper, Hawk also eats rabbit and snake as well. By another side, rabbit and squirrel are also eaten by a fox, bear, dog, and many other consumers. In this way these all food chains interconnected with each other makes a big food web.

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 Food Chain vs. Food Web

  • The food chain is straight while food web is like a network in which many organisms are Moreover, the food chain is small, and the food web is comparatively very large.
  • Food chain includes and starts from one producer and ends at one top predator, whereas food web has many producers, consumers, and numerous top predators.
  • In the food chain, food flow in a linear pathway while in the food web, food flows in different ways at different levels.
  • A single or separate food chain create instability in our ecosystem, on the other hand, food web stabilizes the ecosystem.

Explanatory Video