I am a spider.Just your average,run-of-the-mill garden spider. You may have seen me hanging around.I am going to explain the webof life to you because, you see, I am an expert on webs.Let’s see, where shall I start?Uh hmm, yes, I’ll start by doingwhat I do best: weaving the web!
You see, there are all sorts ofcreatures in the wild,and they each play their role inthe web of life.There are lots of different kinds,or species, of plants and animals.They come in different sizes,shapes and colors.They live in different places andbehave in very different ways.
But for all their differences,plants and animals need a lot of thesame things to survive.In fact, they need each other.That’s what the web of life is all about!Let me start at the very beginning withmy very own web.
You see, as a garden spider,I meet lots of plants and animals.Some of them are my friends,some of them are not so friendly, andsome of them are my dinner!Since I am after all a garden spider,let me show you around my garden.The plants you see here are myfriends. Plants are friends toeveryone in the web of life.To tell you the truth, none of us couldlive without them!But don’t tell them that - they mightget swelled heads over it.Oh, I guess you have a point. Plantsdon’t have heads, do they?
So, there are millions of different kindsof plants all over the world!Plants are really quite simple.All they really need is sunlight andwater!Plants may not seem very interesting.I mean, they can’t talk to you, right?So why am I friends with them?Well, believe me, none of the animalsyou’re about to meet would be aroundwithout plants, so we should allappreciate them!
Now, where was I?Oh yes, the plants!Let me introduce you to the animals that eatplants!Lots of animals eat plants.Plant-eating animals are called herbivores.As a matter of fact, most animals are herbivores.Lets see, how many animals can you name thateat plants?Here, let me help you.
Now be very, very quiet.That guy over there, hes abird. Some birds eat seeds,which come from plants!Some birds also eatwonderful little spiders likeme, so dont let him see me!Quick, lets get out of here!
Whew, that was close. Lets go talk to asquirrel. They dont eat spiders. They eat nuts(which also come from plants).
"Uh hmm, excuse me MadameSquirrel, I would like to introduce you ..." "Not now, silly spider.""But I just want to ask you a fewquestions." "Questions? Questions! But cant you see Im busy?""Yes, but . . ." "No buts about it. Im burying nuts for the winter. Gotta go. Gotta GO!"
Oh, I shouldve known better. Squirrels eatnuts, and they also bury them for storage toeat in the winter time. The ones they forgetabout will grow up to be trees and make morenuts! Squirrels and trees are very goodfriends.
Oh, here come some deer! Deer eat the leavesof plants. They dont bother me except whenthey walk through a spider web Ive workedso hard to build.
I better get back to work here, starting withplants. You see, plants arent just a source offood. For many animals, theyre home!How can an animal live in a plant you ask?Just look at me! I build my spider websbetween branches of trees or blades of grass.Other animals use grass to hide in, like babydeer (fawns). Other animals, like mice, usegrass to build homes.
Trees are the most likelyhomes for animals. Allkinds of birds, insectsand squirrels can call atree home. For largeanimals like bears andwolves, the whole forestis their home. Its whatscientists call "habitat."
I would introduce you to habitat, excepthabitat isnt a plant or an animal - its a wholecommunity of plants and animals! Its a lotlike the town or city in which you live. Itswhere animals get the food they eat and thewater they drink - its just plain where theycall home. Habitat is just as important toanimals as animals are to each other.
Now, lets get back to the story. Remind meagain, where was I? Oh my! Now I remember! I completely forgot to tell you about bugs! Why, bugs are my favorite animals! I eat them!There are many kinds of bugs. And there aredifferent bugs in different places. What kindsof bugs live near you? Have you seen any ants? How about crickets? Mmm . . . I love crickets. Where did you see them? Ill have to come visit you!
Bugs do a lot of different things. Bees visit theflowers of plants and take nectar and use it tomake honey. While the bee is collectingnectar, it usually gets a powder on it calledpollen. This is sort of like when you walk inthe woods and seeds get stuck to your pants.Bees fly from one flower to the next, carryingthis pollen. Some of the pollen falls off intothe flowers, and the plants use that toreproduce! The plant is helping the bees, andthe bees are helping the plants! That worksout pretty well, dont you think?
Some bugs eat plants. Now Im sure youveseen caterpillars before! Caterpillars eat lotsand lots of leaves before they grow up andturn into moths or butterflies. But not everycaterpillar grows up. Why not? Because birds eat them! Id introduce you to a caterpillar, but you see, I ate the last one I met. Well, dont look at me like that, I was hungry!
Now that Im full, I guess we can stop talkingabout what I eat and go meet some otheranimals. Follow me!Ah! Allow me tointroduce you to Red, the fox, and Wiley, thecoyote. Now gentlemen, would you describeeach other as friends?"GRRR!"Oh my! Clearly not!
Perhaps I can shed some light on the situation. You see, most animals eat lots of different things. Some animals are predators, which means they hunt and eat other animals. The animals they eat are called prey. And then there are some animals that scavenge for food. Scavengers eat other animals too, but, unlike predators, they dont do the hunting. They eat what other predators have killed or animals that have died of natural causes. Sometimes a hungry predator will scavenge for food when theres nothing else to eat.What does all that have to do with Red, thefox and Wiley, the coyote?Plenty, believe me!
You see, even though Red the fox is a predatorto rabbits and mice, sometimes fox is the preyof the coyote!Keep that in mind, because the web of life isabout to get very twisted - so hold on! The foxand the coyote are also competitors! Why?Because animals usually eat more than justone thing - they have to in order tosurvive! animals eat the same food, theyrecalled competitors, because they arecompeting for a limited amount of the samefood. Get it?You see, the fox and the coyote both eatmice and rabbits.
Competition is an important part of the web of life. It means that even In fact, different packs of wolves will fight each other for territory and food. The same is true of coyotes, bears and other large predators and scavengers.
I bet youre thinking that as a top predator,the wolf is at the top of the food chain, right?Well, not exactly. You see, describing the webof life as a food chain isnt very accurate.
Allow me to explain. Nowthat big guy over there, hesa wolf. And just over thereare some more wolves.Theyre part of the samepack, or family.
Let me just climb up onto this wolf. Huh, huh,oh my, this is a long climb for me. There,made it! So here I am, standing in the fur onthe back of a wolf. I dont usually do this sortof thing, but for you, Ive made an exception.
Lets see who we can meet up here. Hey look!Its a family reunion! This is my distant cousin,the tick! Ticks feed off of the blood of otheranimals. You may have met one before,perhaps on your dog. Mosquitos and fleas -those wacky bugs - also feed off the blood ofanimals. Im sure youve met a few of them inyour time!
So you see, even predators are food for otheranimals. Thats why there really isnt a "top"to a food chain.
Even predators die sooner or later. Sometimesthey die from old age or from injury. Othertimes they die when theres not enough foodaround.
When a predator does die, its usually eatenby scavengers. What they dont eat, bugs willeat, and so its body is broken down. Whatsleft over eventually becomes part of the soil -providing nutrients to the soil and food for -you guessed it - plants!
So you see, in the web of life, every animal and everyplant relies on other plants and animals to survive.The web of life isnt a chain, and its not quite a circle.Its an important connection between all life, and noone part of it is more important than another. Allanimals and plants in a sense work together tosurvive.
Thats why preservinghabitat and protectingendangered species isvery important! Somake sure you do yourpart. Be a Defender ofWildlife!