Autotrophs vs. Heterotrophs

Autotrophs vs. Heterotrophs

Though these terms seem complex, they are simply scientific names for what are commonly known as plants and animals or producers and consumers.

Autotrophs are organisms that only require carbon dioxide and simple inorganic nitrogen compounds to produce their own food. These organisms can produce nutritional organic substances from inorganic substances in their environments (light, chemical energy, gasses).Most plants are autotrophs because they produce their own nutrition through photosynthesis.

Heterotrophs are organisms that require complex organic compounds of carbon and nitrogen from other plants or animals to obtain nutrition. These organisms cannot produce organic compounds from inorganic sources, so they must rely on consuming other organisms for nutrition. A heterotroph is always at the secondary or tertiary level of a food chain because it cannot produce its own food.

Most autotrophs are considered producers and make up the primary level of any food chain. However, there are some plants, such as types of algae, that can use energy from sunlight but require organic sources of carbon.

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