Species Within the Food Web
The Everglades is home to a uniquely wide range of species. Our research labs in The Everglades monitor animal populations, niches, and the impacts of the Burmese Python on this unique food web. Take a look at some key species detailed below.
The species in green are autotrophs or producers. This means that they produce their own food from inorganic sources using light or energy. These include Mulberries, Saw Grass, and Algae.
The species in orange are primary consumers, or heterotrophs. They cannot produce their own food through photosynthesis, so they consume other organisms or organic matter. These include Fox Squirrels, Marsh rabbits, and Tadpoles.
The species in black are secondary consumers. They are carnivores, feeding on primary consumers. The Bobcat, Raccoon, Mink, and Bass are all secondary consumers.
The species in blue are tertiary consumers. These include Coyotes, Florida Panthers, and Red Foxes.
The American Alligator in red is at the top of the food web. This specie does not have any natural predators, and it is a quaternary consumer.
Saprotrophs and Detritivores
The Great Horned Owl on the right side of the food web is a detritivore. It eats decaying organisms such as bobcats or minks. The Common Greenshield Lichen is a saprotroph, and cannot survive without algae.
Nutrient Flow Through The Food Web
In any ecosystem, nutrients and energy flow upwards through the food web. 10% of the energy at each trophic level is transferred to the next trophic level, reaching all the way to the top. Unfortunately, the Burmese Python is hindering the nutrient flow within this ecosystem. The snake will eat practically every single organism with the exception of the producers and some small insects. For example, The Burmese Python eats most small mammals like Raccoons. However, this affects all of the species Raccoons interact with, since it deprives coyotes of prey and may cause Marsh Rabbit and Fox Squirrel populations to bloom past their carrying capacities without a predator to maintain population sizes. This imbalance within a food web eventually leads to a decrease in most populations, known as a trophic collapse, and can be extremely dangerous. The Burmese Pythons are denying species the energy they require, interrupting the flow of nutrients.