The planet earth is home to many organisms including humans. It makes one wonder as to what do these organisms eat. Moreover, what is the source of their nutrition or how they grow? After years of research, there has been categorization of organisms on the basis of where they gain nutrition from. Thus, they divide into two categories of heterotrophs and autotrophs. The former is a secondary or tertiary consumer in the food chain. For instance, plants, algae, etc. Whereas, the latter is primary producer in the food chain. For instance, animals like dog, horse, lion, etc. Therefore, we will learn about the difference between heterotrophs and autotrophs, their definitions and more.
Definition of Heterotrophs
We derive the term heterotroph from the Greek language. Hetero means different whereas trophe means nourishment. Thus, you see that organisms obtaining energy by consuming plants, animals and decomposing matter are heterotroph.
The equation for cellular respiration is:
Sugar + Oxygen → carbon dioxide + water + ATP
Moreover, it is the process which is utilized for producing energy, where ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) is the main energy form that heterotrophs make use of.
Definition of Autotrophs
Autotrophs are primary producers that are capable of producing their own food. They require sunlight, water and air to do that. It is also derived from the Greek language. Auto means self whereas trophe means nourishing.
Generally, plants having green leaves such as from the mosses to long trees, algae, phytoplankton and some bacteria make use of a method called photosynthesis. In here, plants acquire gain from the sun and use it in to convert carbon dioxide from the air and water from the soil into a nutrient which we call glucose.
Thus, glucose offers energy to the plants. It is also utilized for making cellulose, that aids in building cell walls in plants. Moreover, they don’t move from one place to another in search of food. The below reaction shows how light energy converts into chemical energy
Carbon Dioxide + Water → Sugar + Oxygen
Difference Between Heterotrophs And Autotrophs
Important Difference between Heterotrophs And Autotrophs
|Basis of Comparison||Heterotrophs||Autotrophs|
|Meaning||They are organisms which cannot prepare their own food and depend on others for it.||They are organisms that can make their own food with sunlight, air and water’s help.|
|Chloroplast||Does not contain chloroplast||Green plants contain chloroplast|
|Energy Source||Derive it directly or indirectly from other organisms||Derive it from inorganic sources after converting light energy into chemical energy|
|Types||Photoheterotroph and Chemoheterotroph||Photoautotroph and Chemoautotroph|
|Energy Storage||Not capable of storing energy||Store chemical energy and sunlight|
|Dependency||Rely on other organisms for food||Independent|
|Food chain level||Secondary or tertiary level||Primary producer|
|Movement||Can move from one place to another for food||Cannot move from one place to another|
|Example||Animals such as elephant, cat, horse, cat, cow, dog, etc.||Green plants, algae and some bacteria|
More details about Heterotrophs
There are various types of heterotrophs which divide based on their source of nutrition. Firstly, there are herbivores, animals which eat only plants. Secondly, we have carnivores, who depend on other animal’s flesh.
Thirdly, there are omnivores who get energy from eating plants and animals. Finally, we have decomposers who get nutrition from dead and decay matters.
More details about Autotrophs
It is important to note that there are some autotrophs which make use of another process known as chemosynthesis. In here, they make use of energy from chemical reactions for making food instead of obtaining it from the sun.
Thus, organisms that live in extreme environments such as bacteria that live in volcanoes which are active , or in deep ocean utilize this process. However, Pitcher plants are the exception as they are mixotrophic.
FAQs about Difference Between Heterotrophs And Autotrophs
Question 1: State one difference between heterotrophs and autotrophs.
Answer 1: If we look at the hierarchy level, we see that heterotrophs are at the secondary or tertiary level. Whereas, autotrophs are the primary producers.
Question 2: What are the different types of autotrophs?
Answer 2: The different types of autotrophs are Photoautotrophs and Chemoautotrophs. The former are organisms that use sunlight to prepare their own food. On the other hand, the latter are ones that obtain energy from carbon dioxide using inorganic energy sources.