What is a Heterotroph?

Today we are going to talk about Heterotrophs. Heterotroph is an organism. Heterotroph cannot produce its own food but instead derives nutrition from other sources of organic carbon, mainly plant or animal matter. In the food chain, it is the primary, secondary and third customers but not the producers. Heterotroph cannot prepare its own food by photosynthesis and therefore Heterotroph is completely dependent on autotrophs for food supply. So let us collect a little more information about Heterotroph.


What is a Heterotroph?

The term heterotroph originated in microbiology in 1946 as part of a classification of microorganisms based on their type of nutrition. They can be subdivided according to their energy source. If Heterotroph uses chemical energy then Heterotroph is chemoheterotrophic. If chemoheterotrophic uses light for energy release then chemoheterotrophic is photoheterotrophic.

Detritivores are also heterotrophs that get nutrients through the intake of detritus. Saprotrophs are also chemotherapeutics that use extracellular digestion in the processing of decayed organic matter. The process is largely facilitated by the active transport of such material by endocytosis within the internal mycelium of the heterotroph and its component hyphae.

Heterotroph is found in about 95 percent of all organisms. This also includes men who must obtain Heterotroph from plants or animals. Autotrophs produce their own food, including plants, through a process called photosynthesis. Some species of fungi and bacteria are classified as Autotrophs.

Vegetarians are the primary consumers of Autotrophs because they derive food and nutrients directly from plants. And so vegetarians are second in the food chain level. But carnivorous and omnivorous foods tend to occupy the top of the chain.

TheTypes of Heterotrophs

There are three main types of heterotroph called photoheterotrophs, chemoheterotrophs, detritivores.

1. Photoheterotrophs

Heterotroph uses light instead of photoheterotrophs carbon dioxide to obtain heat. Photoheterotrophs rely on various organic compounds such as carbohydrates, fatty acids and non-sulfur bacteria.

2. Chemoheterotrophs

A type of heterotroph called chemoheterotrophs is obtained by id oxidation of preformed organic compounds. In this way Chemoheterotrophs use chemical energy as their source. A good example of this is men and mushrooms.

3. Detritivores

Detritivores feed on decomposing animals and plants and feces. Detritivores contain fungi that break down decomposing plant and animal material. This type of role is important for the environment as detritivores help recycle dead plant and animal material. Detritivores then create a healthy balance in the ecosystem by returning nutrients.

Importance of Heterotrophs In The Ecosystem

Heterotrophs help maintain balance in the ecosystem by providing organic compounds for autotrophs. Heterotroph helps reduce decay, fungi, plant and animal content. The recycling activity of Heterotroph is important in reducing waste in the environment.

Heterotroph releases carbon dioxide into the surrounding atmosphere. Through aerodynamic exchange processes of heterotroph, plants use this by-product for the process of photosynthesis.

Certain heliobacteria based on organic carbon sources of heterotroph are found in water saturated soils. Here Heliobacteria are anaerobic and help increase soil fertility.


Heterotrophs can catabolize organic compounds by respiration, fermentation, or both. Fermenting Heterotroph is a mandatory anaerobes that ferment in low oxygen environments and in which the production of ATP is usually combined with substrate-level phosphorylation and end products.

These products can then serve as substrates to other bacteria in anaerobic digestion and are converted to CO2 and CH4. Heterotroph's organic cycle is an important step in removing organic fermentation products from the anaerobic environment.

Heterotroph breathes and ATP is produced in heterotroph with oxidative phosphorylation. This causes oxidized carbon waste such as CO2 and reduced waste such as H2O, H2S or N2O to be released into the atmosphere With its microbes accounting for the bulk of CO2 release in the respiratory and fermented environments, Heterotroph makes nutrients and plants available to autotrophs as a plant source as a cellulose synthesis substrate.

Respiration in it is often accompanied by mineralization and the process of converting organic compounds into inorganic form. Organic nutrient sources taken by heterotroph contain essential elements like N, S, and P in addition to C, H, and O. The elements of heterotroph are always removed first to proceed with the production of ATP by oxidation and respiration of organic nutrients. The ability to mineralize the essential elements of heterotroph is very important for the survival of the plant.