Difference Between Autotrophs and Heterotrophs

Food is the only source of energy for all living organisms on this planet. This food is available from different sources.  Living organisms are further divided based on the modes of nutrition:

  • Autotrophs
  • Heterotrophs

Here in this article let us know about the difference between autotrophs and heterotrophs along with the examples.

Difference between Autotrophs and Heterotrophs

The difference between autotrophs and heterotrophs is given below:

Autotrophs Heterotrophs
Autotrophs are organisms that prepare their own food. Heterotrophs depend upon other organisms for nutrition.
These are known as the producers and include green plants, algae and a few photosynthetic bacteria. These are the consumers and include cows, buffaloes, tigers, horses, etc.
These can be classified as photoautotrophs and chemoautotrophs. These can be classified as photoheterotrophs and chemoheterotrophs.
The chloroplast helps in preparing food. They do not contain chloroplast so cannot prepare food.
They obtain energy from inorganic sources by converting light energy into chemical energy. They obtain energy directly or indirectly from other organisms.
Autotrophs can store light energy and chemical energy. Heterotrophs cannot store energy.
They are placed at the primary level in the food chain. These are placed in secondary or tertiary level in the food chain.
These can move from one place to another in search of food and shelter. They cannot move from their place.

Autotrophs and Heterotrophs

“Autotrophs are organisms that prepare their own food through the process of photosynthesis, whereas, heterotrophs are organisms that cannot prepare their own food and depend upon autotrophs for nutrition.”

Autotrophs

Autotrophs are organisms that undergo autotrophic mode of nutrition. These are the organisms that can prepare their own food from simple substances like carbon dioxide, and water. All green plants are examples of autotrophs. These green plants contain chlorophyll pigment in the plant cell that helps in the synthesis of their own food by absorbing energy from the sunlight. All autotrophs are producers and are placed at the primary level in the food web.

Photosynthesis provides the means by which carbon in carbon dioxide is fixed by conversion of carbohydrates including sugars such as glucose and sucrose, cellulose and starches such as amylopectin.

Carbohydrates are interconvertible and may be converted to fatty acids to make lipids. Other elements may be added to synthesize organic compounds such as proteins.  Carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins can all be used as sources of energy in respiration by both autotrophs and heterotrophs, recycling carbon dioxide so that it may again be used in photosynthesis.

Also, read about Autotrophic Nutrition

Heterotrophs

Heterotrophs are organisms which cannot prepare their own food and depend upon producers or green plants and other animals for their food. This mode of nutrition is known as the heterotrophic mode of nutrition.

Heterotrophs rely on autotrophs to provide a continuous supply of new organic molecules. Heterotrophs are considered as consumers and in the food web and are placed at a secondary or tertiary level.

All the non-green plants and animals, inclusive of human beings, are the best examples of heterotrophs.

The heterotrophs are benefited from photosynthesis in many ways.

  • Directly by consuming plants as herbivores
  • Indirectly by attacking, killing and consuming other herbivores animals (carnivores) or both animals and plants (omnivores),
  • By using oxygen for the cellular respiration process.

Also, read about Heterotrophic Nutrition

Flow Chart of Autotrophs and Heterotrophs

The flowchart gives a clear pictorial representation of autotrophs and heterotrophs.

Autotrophs and Heterotrophs

 

Autotrophs and Heterotrophs Key Points

  • Autotrophs and heterotrophs are the two classifications of organisms on the basis of nutrition.
  • Autotrophs are organisms that can prepare their own food. On the contrary, heterotrophs depend on autotrophs and other organisms for nutrition.
  • Green plants and algae contain chlorophyll that helps them to prepare food with the help of sunlight.
  • Heterotrophs include herbivores that feed on plants, carnivores that feed on other animals, omnivores that feed on both plants and animals, and decomposers that feed on dead and decaying matter.
  • Autotrophs are the primary producers and are placed first in the food chain.
  • Heterotrophs are the consumers and are placed at the secondary and tertiary levels.
  • Both are beneficial to maintain the energy flow in the ecosystem.

From the above discussion, we can conclude that both autotrophs and heterotrophs and the modes of nutrition play equal roles in maintaining the food chain of the ecosystem.

Frequently Asked Questions

List out the different types of heterotrophs?

The different types of heterotrophs based on their source of nutrition are:-

  1. Herbivores:  Animals which obtains their nutrition from eating only plants and its materials.
  2. Carnivores: Animals which obtains their nutrition from killing and eating the flesh of other animals.
  3. Omnivores: Animals which obtains their nutrition from both plants as well animals.
  4. Decomposers: Animals which obtains their nutrition from dead and decay matters.

List out the examples of  Heterotrophs?

Animals including Herbivores, omnivores, and carnivores are examples of Heterotrophs.

List out the examples of  Autotrophs.

All green plants synthesizing their own food through the biological process called Photosynthesis are examples of Autotrophs.

Which organisms are both autotrophs and heterotrophs?

Cyanobacteria are organisms that are both autotrophs and heterotrophs. They exhibit photoautotrophic nutrition. Archaea is another example of organisms that are both autotrophs and heterotrophs.

What are the different types of autotrophs?

The different types of autotrophs include:

  • Photoautotrophs: These are the organisms that use sunlight to prepare their own food.
  • Chemoautotrophs: These are organisms that obtain energy from carbon dioxide using inorganic energy sources

Learn more about the difference between autotrophs and heterotrophs, and the difference between the two only @ BYJU’S Biology.

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