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Food Chain of Evil
This is what scares the Boogeyman.

"At the end there, when I was trying to cut a deal, the ambassador was scared... That's why he wouldn't come to our aid. That's why we're on our own. Because the demons are afraid of what we're hunting."
Mayor Rudgutter, Perdido Street Station

Humans are the dominant species. We're at the top of the food chain. That means that literally nothing in the world can successfully prey on humans (except maybe other humans). That's part of what makes a lot of monsters scary and badass; they dethrone us from our position of power.

But when you think about it, eating people is kind of old-hat. After a while, you begin to lose track of all the different types of monsters that eat humans. It just becomes a fact of life, so by the time you run into that guy who wants to devour your flesh to add to his own power, you just sort of yawn because it's exactly the same as everything you've seen anywhere ever. So how do you make something distinctive, then? Well, if monsters that eat humans are no longer a threat... what about monsters that eat other monsters? To establish a Food Chain Of Evil, all you have to do is make the last threat the preferred prey of the next one.

This will often result in situations of Horrifying the Horror for the first monster, where it's deathly frightened of the thing now trying to eat him.

Anything which eats monsters that eat humans counts. Basically, this is power tiers established via fictional food chain.

Contrast Elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors and Tactical Rock-Paper-Scissors, where the food chain is circular.

See also:
  • Always a Bigger Fish: The heroes are saved when the monster gets eaten by a bigger monster.
  • Monster Lord: Also related, but a Monster leader that eats its own kind is distinct from this trope in that it's only one monster, not an entire species that preys on the other one (although it can still count if the Monster Lord is an entire multi-member monster caste unto itself).

Not to be confused with carnivores are evil or Villain Pedigree, although there's probably some overlap with the latter.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • The Crusniks from Trinity Blood, who eat vampires.
  • The Pillar Men in Part 2 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure eat the vampires who were the primary antagonists in Part 1.
  • Alucard fom Hellsing. While technically a vampire in name, he's more of an Eldritch Abomination in vampire's clothing, and his favorite food seems to be the vampires created by the Big Bad.
  • The Menos Grande from Bleach are created when the hunger of a group of Hollows becomes so great that they start feeding on each other, resulting in them merging into a near-mindless skyscraper-sized beast. If one of the constituent personalities can gain control of the others, then continuing to consume other Hollows eventually pushes them across the Bishonen Line to become the human-like and insanely powerful Vasto Lordes.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion where Unit 01 goes berserk and eats Zeruel.
  • Devilman features this often, mostly in the first OVA, as the demons will eat each other out of cannibalism.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist has this when Pride eats Gluttony's philosopher's stone.
  • Godannar with the fusion type mimetic beasts trying to "eat" their brethren, although somewhat subverted as it actually makes them more powerful.
  • Getter Robo with New Getter Robo when the giant onis eat smaller members of their kind to gain their intelligence.
  • Cell from Dragon Ball Z needed to hunt down and absorb Dr Gero's other creations to reach his final form.
  • Invoked in Puella Magi Madoka Magica. The series's Monsters of the Week, witches, devour humans and use them to reproduce. The core of a dead witch, a Grief Seed, is the only way for a Puella Magi to replenish their strength, and so they hunt (or, in some cases, even cultivate) witches. One particularly cold girl, Kyouko, even calls it a food chain, with them at the top. As it turns out, Puella Magi are merely the larval forms of witches, and the discarded Grief Seeds are ultimately fuel for their creators. Some fans have even produced population dynamic models.

    Comics 
  • Tryks hunt down and infect the various species of vampire in the Marvel Universe. They need normal humans to reproduce though. Deacon Frost also tries to become a creature above vampires on the food chain himself but instead gets eaten by one.
  • One of the non-canon Angel comic books had him deal with the returning threat of a giant tentacle monster that fed on vampires by sucking out the demon inside of them. Angel wouldn't have a problem with this, except that when the creature reaches it's maximum of 3000 demons, they'll all be expelled from it's body...in a spirit form that will let them directly possess living humans, instantly turning 3000 people into vampires in one night.
  • In an interview, Hack/Slash creator Tim Seeley once mentioned a scrapped storyline that would have involved a slasher who preyed solely on vampires.
  • A few Venom stories featured Xenophages, monsters that feed on symbiotes.

    Film 
  • The Reapers in Blade II, as shown atop this page. Though they were not above snacking on humans too. The only way to kill them was the sun, as they had a solid bone plate over their heart, and easily healed from a broken neck. They could probably survive decapitation as well; a victim in the middle of turning survived a partial decapitation. After the body was destroyed, the remaining piece was still looking around and blinking with its eye.
  • Subverted in Godzilla 2000. In the climax of the movie, Orga attempts to swallow Godzilla whole. Godzilla uses his atomic breath on its insides and kills it.
  • In Rodan, the titular giant pterosaur is first introduced as a predator that eats the Big Creepy-Crawlies called Meganulon that had previously been the threat in the movie.
  • Marcus from Underworld Evolution becomes a vampire/lycan hybrid. From this point, he becomes pretty much omnivorous.
  • The Valley of Gwangi: The titular allosaurus eats a styracosaurus and a gallimimus.
  • Planet of the Dinosaurs: The tyrannosaurus rex eats a rhedosaurus while chasing the human characters at one point.
  • Evolution: Mostly at the stage of alien evolution where the meteor crash site resembles the Carboniferous Era.
  • Star Wars: The Phantom Menace: The sando aqua monster eating the opee sea killer and colo crawl fish.
  • The Cosmic Monsters: A giant spider (that somehow changes between a tarantula and a funnel web) catches a cockroach in it's web and fights it, eventually winning and wrapping it up.
  • Ghoulies II: The Ghoulie Eater, who does what exactly what his name says and eats all but the Fish Ghoulie.
  • King Kong: Specifically the 2005 version where the vastatosaurus rex eats a foetodon. This is also heavily used in the game based on the film.
  • Jurassic Park:
    • The T-Rex in the first film eats a gallimimus and a velociraptor.
    • Jurassic Park III also has this with the notorious scene of the spinosaurus killing the juvenile tyrannosaurus.
  • Mega Piranha: The titular monsters feed on each other if one is hurt. The feeding frenzy is so crazy that it ends up causing them to kill each other at the end.
  • Mega Shark Vs Crocosaurus: Mega Shark proceeds to eat Crocosaurus's eggs throughout the movie.
  • The main character in Hunting Humans has a Nightmare Sequence where the fellow Serial Killer who has been hassling him appears as a supernatural creature that preys on infamous murderers.
    "I'm the reason Jack the Ripper was never caught, and I'm the reason you'll never be caught. You're hunting humans, and I'm hunting you!"
  • In Daybreakers, vampires can mutate by drinking their own blood, turning into Subsiders, feral and incredibly dangerous bat/human hybrid monsters. They feed mostly off the blood-drinking but much more human vampires, but will eagerly take human blood too whenever they can get it.
  • In Queen of the Damned, Akasha drinks the blood of vampires and humans alike.
  • Quite literal in How to Train Your Dragon with the Green Death. Some of the dragons are huge in comparison to the human characters (Zipplebacks and Monstrous Nightmares especially, but even Night Furies are big dragons) but ridiculously tiny compared to the Green Death, which is possibly their Hive Queen. In fact, the regular dragons aren't even evil at all; they simply have to return to the dragons' nest with food or they'll be eaten.

    Literature 
  • Giant spiders in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets fear the basilisk. But even the mighty basilisk is afraid of roosters. And roosters fear humans, which fear giant spiders, which fear basilisks, which fear roosters...
  • Lovecraft's Great Race of Yith, for all their power and clear superiority, seem terrified of the half-material entities sealed beneath the earth.
  • In Roger Zelazny's short story Dayblood, the titular Dayblood feed on vampires. The only Dayblood present looks (and thinks) like human and doesn't seem to be particularly evil - more like ruthlessly practical. Interesting that vampires know at least some weaknesses of the Dayblood and use appropriate protections against them.
    • Zelazny also wrote Itself Surprised, a short story in Fred Saberhagen's Berserker series about discovering an inactive anti-Berserker Berserker, unleashed long ago by the Red Race shortly before the Builders' Berserkers wiped them out.
  • The main issue in Perdido Street Station by China Miéville's are slake moths, giant dream and mind eating moths that scare the living crap out of devils. In fact the slake moths are even shown to have eaten a vampire at one point in the book.
    • And these slake moths are only halfway up the foodchain in their homeland. It's that kind of world.
  • Inverted in the original novel of I Am Legend. The significance of the title is that, to the living, sapient vampires rebuilding civilization, Robert Neville is a terrifying monster who can hunt them during the day.
  • The titular 3-foot-long man-eating crabs of J.F. Gonzalez' Clickers are only on shore in the first place because they're fleeing from 7-foot-tall Fish People.
  • In Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night, someone, or something appears to be hunting the vampires of London and draining all of their blood.
  • The various monsters in Stephen King's novella The Mist have a clear food-chain, along with eating any humans they come across.

    Live Action TV 
  • Big Wolf on Campus had a variation in an episode about vampires that can only eat werewolves.
  • Species 8472 in Star Trek: Voyager are Borg biters. They see our entire galaxy as impure. They plan on killing everything else after they finish chowing down on the Borg.
  • On Supernatural, there are creatures that gain power by consuming the blood of demons. Sam is one of them.
  • The Ultraman franchise does this occasionally.
    • Return of Ultraman: Gudon is Twin Tail's natural predator. This is even repeated in Ultraman Mebius.
    • Ultraman Taro
      • The very first episode where Astromons eats Oil Drinker with the toothy flower on his torso.
      • Also episode 17 and the beginning of episode 18 where Birdon hunts the Kemujira.
    • Ultraman Eighty: Zakira attempts this with an infant Baru, but fails.
    • Ultraman Gaia: Crabgan absorbs Anemos for the two of them to become more powerful.
    • Ultraman Max: Episode 30 in which a Lagoras eats the molten core of a Grangon to become Evolved Lagoars.
    • Ultraman Mebius: Bogar and the lesser members of her species, they are basically mouths with a body.
  • Stargate Atlantis
    • The Wraith are a terrifying race of lifeforce vampires who hunt, herd, and generally rule over humanity as a food source. However, when Lt Ford was being fed upon, the process was interrupted and he discovered that the Wraith, in order to allow them feed longer, inject their victims with a powerful stimulant that makes the victim stronger. Cue Ford and some other Wraith survivors around the galaxy forming a group that hunts the wraith, harvesting their corpses for more sweet, sweet Psycho Serum
    • There are also the Asurans: machines created by the Ancients to combat the Wraith. When the Asurans are activated, they become a much bigger threat than the Wraith when they decide to kill the Wraith by eliminating their food source... humans. Until they are dealt with, of course.
  • In an early episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a particularly fiercesome vampire is sent running at the sight of the She-Mantis, who wasn't even in her true form at the time.
  • Vampire Diaries features Mikael, an ancient vampire who hunts other vampires because he doesn't drink the blood of the living, only other vampires.
  • River Monsters is a documentory about catching the scaries fresh water fish, not just the man-eaters, but the things that eat them. Usually done on a catch and release basis, but sometimes people do end up eating them. Note: this is a documentory, so the fish that qualify are also Real Life examples.

    Tabletop RPG 
  • In Vampire: The Masquerade, any vampire of a sufficiently low generation can develop the Elder's Thirst: they can only feed on other vampires. Their capacity for holding blood can be ten times that of a neonate, so when they're running on empty it takes a lot to fill them up. Luckily vampire blood is much more filling. Being so ancient and all-powerful these guys are walking Deus Ex Machinas. Most vampires in the setting live in fear of Gehenna, when the Antediluvians will rise from torpor to devour their offspring. Humans can be empowered somewhat by feeding them vampire blood — but become enslaved to their donor. Sometimes they decide to go independent and find their own supplies. This is Vlad the Impaler's backstory. note  And then there are the Nagaraja, an obscure bloodline that requires a little bit of flesh with their blood.
  • In Vampire: The Requiem, any vampire with Blood Potency 7 can get bit by the need to drink the blood of another camp. There are drawbacks: addiction and the risk of being mind controlled by the victim. They can also get addicted to soul-eating other vampires through diablerie. Usually, any vamp getting this high a Blood Potency either ate his way up or existed for a very long time, both of which tend to make you extremely powerful. In the case of the former, they also tend to be quite psychotic due to diablerie eating away at your Humanity. Supplements have featured both the Macellarius, who gain the ability to truly digest food and a gourmand's desire for strange flesh, and the Noctuku who have a compulsion to eat the flesh of their victims as well as drink their blood, despite it providing no benefit to them — it's more a dominance thing.
  • Arguably the Necrons of Warhammer 40,000, the only race in existence with a working game plan to permanently destroy Chaos — a sentient dark side that operates by The Corruption when it isn't taking matters into its own hands. Necrons are the entities that daemons are theoretically scared of, though Daemon players aren't usually scared of Necron players in practice.
  • In Dungeons & Dragons, Bebiliths are literally Demonic Spiders whose favorite prey is other demons.

    Video Games 
  • The What Did I Do to Deserve This, My Lord? series is all about creating a food chain ecology for your monsters. Slime molds roll around redistributing nutrients from the soil, the insectoid Omnoms eat the slimes to feed themselves and reproduce, Lizard Men eat Omnoms, and Lizard Men can be devoured by Dragons.
  • In Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the player is stalked by a horrifying monster that can't be confronted or killed, and you spend much of your time running and hiding in terror. About halfway through the game, you wander into a side room and find its dismembered corpse lying in a pile of The Corruption, and realize you have bigger things to worry about.
  • Ratchet & Clank: Amoeboids and it is pretty much all they do.
  • Seen often in Dino Crisis 2 where the tyrannosaur Scar is defeated by the giganotosaurus and eaten off-screen.
  • In the first Paper Mario, Tubba Blubba eats Boos.
    • Possibly a Justified Trope in this case, since they admit afterwards they used to scare him for a hobby.
  • If you get into a battle with both a Dung Beetle and a Sand Lizard in Mother 3, the Lizard might eat the Dung Beetle for health. In the Sand Lizard's Battle Memory entry, the game mentions that the Dung Beetles clean up the Sand Lizard's dung, and, in turn, the Sand Lizards eat them.
  • The lynchpin of the plot in Metroid: Fusion: by killing all the Metroids in SR388, Samus disrupted the natural balance of the ecosystem, resulting in the X Parasites reproducing unchecked. This is, unsurprisingly, a Bad Thing.
  • In Nightmare Creatures you spend most of the game facing the though and somewhat dangerous Pepys' Monsters (sort of large humanoid golems with extra limbs and heads). After a certain level you'll start meeting Giant Spider monsters, who has webbed and eaten one of said Pepys Monsters.
  • In the second Splatterhouse game at the end of the first level you see three mooks progressively devoured by a larger creature beyond a door, quickly revealed to be the boss of the level.
  • In the Halo series, the Covenant are a collection of highly advanced alien species who seem bent on causing humanity's extinction...that is until the Flood are released. After that, the Flood start assimilating the Covenant and humans into their ranks and you start to wish you just had the Covenant to face again.
  • In the Soul Reaver series, the initial protagonist Raziel begins by being transformed from a vampire to a wraith which feeds on the souls of vampires.
  • In the Web Game Amorphous, the opponents you face are Glooples, a number of which can engulf the player or eat him. Then there's the Amalgam, who like its namesake suggests can absorb other Glooples to become stronger. Of course, the Amalgam can engulf the player too if they're not careful.

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In The Snorks, the main characters had to deal with a predatory species called Snork Eaters once in a while, but in one episode they introduced another character who was a Snork Eater Eater.
  • An episode of Futurama dealt with a "Sub-Sewer Mutant" that the regular Sewer Mutants feared. They try to laugh it off as just a Sub-Urban Legend.
    • Though the mutants don't really fit this trope because they don't prey on humans.
    • In the non-canon comics, there really are Sub-Sewer Mutants except they act really peaceful, it's only that they mean the opposite of what they say.
  • A Robot Chicken Charlie Brown sketch has a predatory Great Pumpkin being eaten by the Kite Eating Tree
  • One episode of The Real Ghostbusters featured Mee-Krah, an Eldritch Abomination that awoke every thousand years and devoured other ghosts in order to replenish its energy. Unfortunately, it became incredibly hot as it did this, until it eventually reduced the surrounding landscape to a wasteland. The Sahara Desert, the Gobi Desert, and Death Valley were all in their current state because of this demon's previous rampages. The heroes had to stop it before it did the same thing again (and it wasn't easy).
  • In The Amazing World of Gumball, when Gumball and Darwin get lost in the Forest of Doom, they attempt to eat a caterpillar out of hunger. Unable to go through with the deed, they release it and shout encouragement as it slithers away. Suddenly, a fish-bird creature swoops down and grabs the worm. The bird then gets eaten by a tentacled mouse monster, whereas the it gets eaten by a one-eyed gryphon. The gryphon, in turn, gets eaten by a huge moose-like beast. All of this happens in the span of 20 seconds, and Gumball and Darwin stare in silent horror as it goes on.
  • A similar joke appears in Black Dynamite: a white hunter is eaten by a giant white wolf is eaten by a larger white dinosaur is eaten by an even larger spider which Black Dynamite shoots in the head.
    Black Dynamite: That is how you conserve ammo!

    Real Life 
  • Although physically incapable of eating humans, cobras and kraits on the Indian subcontinent do kill them with some frequency. These venomous serpents are also preyed upon by king cobras, which are specialized snake-eaters.
    • The New World version might be the mussarana, a large colubrid that likes to eat rattlesnakes. Of course, it's not particularly dangerous to humans itself, though it is a rather intimidating-looking snake.
    • Don't forget mongeese.
  • Great white sharks, frequently regarded as ferocious man eaters, are themselves easy game for orcas. Records have sharks leaving their feeding grounds whenever they felt a killer whale nearby.
    • They've been known to go absurd length to avoid Orcas, for example. all the way from the mainland US to Hawaii, to put that in perspective, if they went the other way to Kansas, it wouldn't be far enough.
  • Siberian tigers hunt bears (black and brown) and keep wolves in their territory at a minimum. Interestingly, of the three the tiger is the least likely to kill humans.
  • Lions are afraid of crocodiles when they are in the water, but if they surprise them inland they will kill and eat them with no problem.
    • Lions tend to go out of their way to kill other predators in the areas they hunt: hyenas can fight back but leopards and cheetah are a bit out matched and have to avoid them whenever they can.

Fackler Scale of FPS RealismSorting Algorithm of TropesGood Hair, Evil Hair
Flies Equals EvilHorror TropesFootprints Of Muck
Eats BabiesFood TropesHorror Hunger
Blade IIImageSource/Live-Action FilmsThey Call Him Sword

alternative title(s): Sorting Food Chain Of Evil; Eats Vampires; Monsters That Eat Other Monsters
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