noun, plural: consumers
An organism that generally obtains food by feeding on other organisms or organic matter due to lack of the ability to manufacture own food from inorganic sources; a heterotroph
Consumer pertains to any of the organisms in most trophic levels in a food chain, except for producers and decomposers. Consumers are also referred to as heterotrophs in contrast to autotrophs, which are the producers of the food chain. Consumers therefore include animals and heterotrophic bacteria and fungi. Plants that are carnivorous and therefore consume organic matter as well are regarded as both consumers and producers.
In a food chain, the levels of consumers are primary consumers, secondary consumers, and tertiary consumers. Primary consumers are herbivores that feed on producers. Secondary consumers are consumers that feed on primary consumers and/or producers. Tertiary consumers are consumers that feed on secondary and primary consumers, as well as on producers.
Word origin: Middle English consumen, Latin cōnsūmere (“to take) + –er
- food chain
- food web
- trophic level
- consume (verb, to use; to eat)