What is the Difference between Autotrophic and Heterotrophic Nutrition?

What does Heterotrophic mean? What is the Difference between Autotrophs and Autotrophic? Is Fungi a Autotroph or Heterotroph? Are Humans Autotrophs or Heterotrophs?

The food cycle is something that you all might have learned about in school. None can live without eating because this is a necessity for survival and growth. The producers are the reason why we as consumers can get the food, however, you may wonder about the difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition, whether is fungi a autotroph or heterotroph, and whether are humans autotrophs or heterotrophs. Don’t worry we will go through them all!

1. What is an Autotroph Example?

Let us start by looking into what an autotroph is. So simply speaking autotroph is defined as an organism that can make their own food using the natural resources available which are water, sunlight, carbon dioxide, and some other chemicals found in nature. An example that is generally used to make students understand an autotroph is algae. These are the green slimy stuff that you find on top of water sources in lakes and stagnant water but these are also found in the ocean beds. (See How is Photosynthesis Considered Endergonic?)

2. What Plants are Autotrophs?

Image by Larisa Koshkina on Pixabay

Before understanding the difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition, let us first understand the plants that are autotrophs. Most plants are considered to be autotrophs if not all of them. The plants we see around us are mostly autotrophs because they make their own food using photosynthesis, which uses sunlight and carbon dioxide from the environment and ends up making their food.

A very common example is the grass that we see everywhere. These plants grow by making use of the carbon dioxide exhaled by other living creatures and the sunlight from the environment. These autotrophic plants are at the bottom of the food chain and are very important for the world to function. (See Plant store in food in the form of?)

3. Which Animals are Autotrophs?

Animals in general are not autotrophs because they cannot produce their own food and sustain themselves. They are never at the bottom of the food chain as they depend on plants for their survival. The number of autotrophs in animals is less than those in plants as they are made to prepare their own food while animals depend on these plants for survival.

An example of an autotroph is the iron bacteria which is scientifically known as Acidithiobacillus ferrooxidans as the name of the bacterium suggests, it obtains its energy by sustaining on ferrous iron wherein it converts iron molecules to dissolvable molecular form. (See What are few examples of producers consumers and decomposers?)

4. What is the Difference between Autotrophs and Autotrophic?

The difference between autotrophs and autotrophic are as given below:

Autotrophs are those living organisms that are able to produce their own food using the sources available in the environment namely sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water. The word is derived from two words namely auto and troph meaning self and food respectively and this organism not only feeds itself but also the whole of the world. They are also known as producers and some examples are algae, phytoplankton, and grass among others.

While the above explanation was for what are autotrophs, the meaning of autotrophic is the process of requiring only carbon dioxide or carbonate as a source along with inorganic nitrogen compounds for the metabolic synthesis of organic molecules such as glucose. This is a process under chemistry that is done by autotrophic plants. (See What is Importance of Soil to Plants?)

5. What is a Heterotroph Example?

After learning about what is the difference between autotrophs and autotrophic, let us understand what is a heterotroph example. Heterotrophs are considered organisms that cannot make their own food and eat other plants and animals to sustain and get nutrition. Their bodies are not made in a way by which they can make food for themselves and for this matter cannot be independent. They are dependent on autotrophs for survival.

More or less all animals can be considered heterotrophs and human beings are one of them. We humans depend on plants and other animals for food and survival and without them, we would not be alive. Some other examples are cows, buffaloes, and tigers among many others. (See What would happen in an ecosystem without herbivores?)

6. What does Heterotrophic mean?

We saw in the previous answer what heterotrophs mean and that is organisms who cannot make their own food for themselves. Heterotrophic is the mode of nutrition used by heterotrophs and that is how their body functions. They require complex and organic compounds like nitrogen and carbon for sustenance. (See What are Behavioral Adaptation of Animals?)

7. What is Difference between Heterotrophs and Autotrophs?

Now before we dive into the difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition, let us understand the difference between autotrophs and heterotrophs in general. The difference between autotrophs and heterotrophs is as follows:

Heterotrophs are organisms that cannot make their own food and depend on other autotrophs and other heterotrophs for survival. Their body is not structured in ways to use the available resources to make their own food inside the body itself. These are known as consumers as their job is to consume the autotrophs and other animals to fill their bellies and get nutrition and energy.

Autotrophs are organisms that make their own food using photosynthesis, which uses sunlight and carbon dioxide from the environment and ends up making their food. A reason for this is the availability of chloroplast in their structure which helps them use the process of photosynthesis to make their food and obtain energy. (See Is a bird a secondary consumer?)

8. What is the Difference between Autotrophic and Heterotrophic Nutrition?

The difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition is as follows:

  • Autotrophic nutrition: This is one of the two types of nutrition and this is the one in which food is synthesized from inorganic or carbonate substances and is done due to the presence of chloroplast in the structure of the plants and animals. This requires sunlight and carbon dioxide from the air and is done during the daytime.
  • Heterotrophic nutrition: This is considered to be the second mode of nutrition in which the nutrition and energy are derived from consuming other autotrophs or fellow heterotrophs. Human beings are also one example because of the lack of chloroplast in our bodies.

9. Is Fungi a Autotroph or Heterotroph?

You already know the difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition. An answer to whether is fungi a autotroph or heterotroph is pretty simple and all types of fungi are considered to be heterotrophs because they get their energy from consuming other living or dead organisms. The lack of the ability to do the process of photosynthesis is the reason why they are not autotrophs. Like every heterotroph, the fungi depend on autotrophs or smaller heterotrophs to survive in this world. Some types of fungi are also known to be carnivores while others can be considered herbivores. (See Is a mushroom a producer?)

10. Is a Tree an Autotroph?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Yes, a tree is coined as an autotroph because trees take in carbon dioxide, water, and sunlight from the environment and make their own food which helps them get the nutrition and energy to grow from a seed into a full-grown tree. Trees do this because of the process of photosynthesis making use of chloroplasts in their leaves, a reason for their leaves to have a green color. (See How is Sunlight Converted into Food?)

11. Are Humans Autotrophs or Heterotrophs?

Humans are definitely heterotrophs because we depend on plants and other animals to satisfy our hunger and get energy and nutrition. The availability of autotrophs and other heterotrophs is why we are under the heterotrophic mode of nutrition and also our bodies are not made to produce our own food even after being the most complex animal on this planet.

This might have helped you understand the difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition and the topics revolving around these. Be it the bottom-most or the top-most organism, all of them are important in this world for it to keep going smoothly. Some other questions that you understood are the difference between autotrophs and autotrophic and whether are humans autotrophs or heterotrophs. (Also read What type of Consumer is a Rabbit?)

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