When you picture the lowest levels of the food chain, you might imagine herbivores happily munching on lush, living green plants. But this idyllic image leaves out a huge (and slightly less appetizing) source of nourishment: dead stuff. John C. Moore details the “brown food chain,” explaining how such unlikely delicacies as pond scum and animal poop contribute enormous amounts of energy to our ecosystems.

Dead stuff: The secret ingredient in our food chain from TED Ed. Bonus: Animated leafy creatures by Celeste Lai and Lisa LaBracio — excellent autumn leaf art project inspiration.

File under: food chains, poop, and death! Related watching: Whale Fall (After Life of a Whale) and Feedback loops: How nature gets its rhythms.

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