Food Pyramids

A blue and grey exhibit table and matching information panel with red, green, white and yellow plastic animal shapes on the table top.
A blue and grey exhibit table and matching information panel with red, green, white and yellow plastic animal shapes on the table top.

Food pyramids show the relative biomass of plants and prey compared to top predators.

How it works

Insert the eight corn pieces into the slots and balance the mice and snake pieces on top.

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • What is the balance of life in a food pyramid?
  • What animal is left to sit on the very top?

Background

Animals that eat each other are linked together in a food chain or food pyramid. There are many more plants or animals at the bottom of the food pyramid (such as grain and mice) than at the top of the food pyramid (such as eagles). Each plant or animal eaten in a food pyramid passes energy on to the animal on the next level of the food pyramid. If the number of mice at the bottom of the food pyramid increases or decreases, this can reduce or increase the number of eagles at the top.

Finding the science in your world

Every kilogram of meat-eating (or carnivorous) mammal needs about 111 kilograms of prey to stay alive. This means that a lion weighing 200 kilograms would eat around 22 200 kilograms of animals such as zebra in its lifetime. Hence, the number of prey individuals needs to be much greater than the number of predators, to keep the food pyramid stable.