Welcome to ON(line)SC's Virtual Learning!
Good morning naturalists!
Yesterday we explored the world of producers and how they get their energy. Today we will be taking the next step up the food chain and looking at how animals get their energy. Let’s get ready to explore!
As we discovered yesterday, plants are called producers because they make their own food. Animals are not able to do this, so how do they get their food?
Scientists say that animals are consumers, but what does it mean to consume something? A lot of our students will say “to use something” or “to eat something”. What do animals eat? Do they all eat the same thing? No! Animals eat many different types of food; because of this, there are several different types of consumers. This morning, go ahead and see if you can find signs of what the animals around you are eating, or create a list of your favorite animals and what they eat.
The consumers at the bottom of the food pyramid are the primary consumers; these are the consumers that only eat plants. Do you know the name for animals that only eat plants? If you guessed herbivores, you are correct! Take a look at the food web you made earlier this week, and label all of the primary consumers!
This squirrel loves to munch on the seeds from our bird feeder but would also love to eat the acorn we saw yesterday!
Moving up the food pyramid, the secondary consumers are next; these are the animals that eat primary consumers. What is another name for an animal that only eats other animals? If you have forgotten, go ahead and review Monday's post!
This shy raccoon will eat almost anything including: insects, fruits and nuts, fish, and bird eggs. You might also find these wily animals stealing garbage from your trash can.
Go ahead and label any secondary consumers from the chart you made on Monday.
The third group of consumers as we move up the food pyramid are the tertiary consumers. These are animals that will eat the secondary consumers; carnivores that eat other carnivores! Go ahead and take some time to label all of the tertiary consumers in your food web.
This bobcat will eat other predators like weasels and even skunks. We would not recommend trying to eat a skunk -gross!
Animals eat all kinds of different foods. Let’s compare that to some of your favorite things to
eat. Take a large blank piece of paper and some crayons or colored pencils and draw a bar graph of your favorite foods. Have one bar be for plants (like fruits, veggies, salad etc.) one bar be for meat (burgers, chicken, steak etc.) a bar for foods made from plants (bread, pasta, cereal) and a bar for foods that come from animals (milk, cheese, ice cream, eggs). Which category had the most of your favorites in it? Which had the least?
Just because an animal is a carnivore does not mean that it is a hunter. Can you think of an animal they know that eats meat but is not a hunter?
This vulture loves to eat meat that you and I would never want to touch, much less eat! Bonus fact: These animals will regurgitate (throw up) their food on animals that try to eat them!
Animals that eat meat that is already dead are called scavengers. Scavengers are a very important part of the food web. Along with decomposers, they are nature’s clean up crew. Scavengers may break down larger pieces of material, but it is not truly decomposed until the FBI members from week 2 break it down further.
Here's a couple of quick questions for you:
Were there any creatures in your food web that got more than one label? Why?
Were there any animals that you couldn't place in a specific spot? Go ahead and do more research to find out what they eat.
What level of consumer is your imaginary animal from Monday?
Here's a list of animals that we have found at ONSC. What is their usual diet?
*Answers can be found at the bottom of the page. If any of the answers surprised you, find out what the animal eats and write that information on the worksheet.
Now that we know about all kinds of consumers, let’s see if we can find any. If you can, let's get outside for this one! If not, your challenge is to do this in your own home. Go out into your yard with any tools that you have such as binoculars, magnifying glasses, etc. Start with the biggest creatures you can find, and move towards smaller ones. How many different consumers can you find? How many are primary? Secondary? Tertiary? Any scavengers? Don't forget to include yourself, and if an animal fits into more than one category, go ahead and include it in all of them! Count the number of each that you see, and create a bar graph. It might look something like this:
To get us thinking, which of these groups of consumers would it be easiest to be? Which might be the most difficult?
As a final note, we just want to let everyone know that today is a very, very special day! Today is the 50th anniversary of the very first Earth Day! On April 22, 1970, millions of people across the country came together in large rallies to protect the Earth from dangers such as pollution and over-killing of wildlife. Because of this, we now have laws protecting our water, air, soil and endangered species, as well as people's health. This is an example of how ordinary, everyday people can make a huge difference in the health of our planet!
We will be devoting next week's ONSC Online to ways that ordinary people like us can make a difference in our planet. Take some time today to think about some things on Earth that you are thankful for, and how you can help protect them. National Geographic has some activities you can do at home to celebrate as well. As always, we would love to see what you have created, so feel free to share them with us!
That wraps up today’s explorations. Thank you so much for joining us to discover the world of consumers. We hope to see you all back here tomorrow. Until then, happy exploring!
*Answers to “What's My Diet?”: Deer-herbivore, Spring peeper-omnivore(tadpoles are herbivores, adult frogs are carnivores), Coyote-omnivore, Timber rattlesnake-carnivore, Monarch caterpillar-herbivore, Three-toed box turtle-omnivore, Red-tailed hawk-carnivore, Little brown bat-carnivore, Mourning dove-herbivore, Tarantula-carnivore
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