Autotroph Definition

By autotroph we understand all organisms that have the ability to make their own food from inorganic substances such as the non-living elements of the planet (light, water, etc.). Among the most important and common autotrophic organisms we find plants since they carry out their own food synthesis, using elements such as water and sunlight to prepare their food.

The word autotroph comes from the Greek language, for which cars means ‘self’, ‘of oneself’ and trophies ‘nutrition’, resulting in ‘nutrition performed by oneself’. Autotrophic beings or organisms are perhaps the simplest in the world of living beings, since animals and humans need to feed on other compounds in addition to consuming the former as their own food. For autotrophic beings, elements such as water or sunlight (from which photosynthesis or light synthesis is carried out) are essential since it is only from them that they can make their own food and continue to grow.

First links in the food chain

In the food chain, autotrophic beings are the first links and they are, needless to say, very important for the rest of the organisms to participate in it. Because autotrophs are the only beings that take energy directly from the environment to feed themselves, the rest of the beings (heterotrophs) need the synthesizing process that the former perform naturally. In this way, animals and human beings consume plants to receive already processed energy. At the same time, carnivorous animals such as humans, cats, or wolves use their herbivorous prey to receive the nutrients and energy that an autotrophic organism can generate.

The members of this group par excellence are vegetables. They get energy from sunlight and will generate oxygen to be able to manufacture their food as we have already seen. Bacteria are another type of autotroph.

In the case of plants, the process of generating food is called photosynthesis. Yes or yes, this process requires the energy of the sun to be carried out. They are the leaves, the most important elements of the plant and those that allow it to capture the primary source of energy such as the sun.

Plants, determinants in the creation of oxygen for life on the planet

The formation of our planet’s atmosphere was determined by this process of photosynthesis. Thanks to this contribution made by plants, the percentage of oxygen in the air increases and therefore life and development on our planet earth is viable. Without him life would be impossible.

So, autotrophic nutrition is not only relevant because it starts the food chain as we have already pointed out and many other beings can feed accordingly, but also because it makes it possible for all of the beings that live on the planet to actually breathe.

According to the studies and these comments that we are making regarding the function of supplying the planet with oxygen, it is considered that organisms of this type were the first to populate the earth. Without them, the development of life as we know it today would have been impossible, that is, they generated the optimal conditions at the environmental level and also became the basis of the food chain so that the rest of the living beings can feed according to and thus develop.
Ultimately, human beings would not have been viable without them either.

In addition to normal plants and vegetables, marine algae are also considered autotrophic beings but they carry out a type of synthesis known as chemosynthesis, carried out from the fixation of carbon and other elements.

Heterotrophs do not generate their food per se, they feed on autotrophs

Meanwhile, those organisms that use others to feed themselves are called heterotrophs, that is, they are not capable of feeding themselves by their own production like autotrophs, so they must feed themselves with contributions from nature that other organisms have already synthesized, such as mentioned vegetables.