What is a heterotrophic being?

We explain what a heterotrophic being is, how they can be classified by their preferences and some examples of these living beings.

  1. What is a heterotrophic being?

Known living things can be classified into two main types, depending on the model of nutrition processes that characterize them:  heterotrophs  and autotrophs, that is, those that have heterotrophic nutrition and autotrophic nutrition.

Heterotrophs are known to be living beings that are not able to sustain themselves from inorganic environmental matter , but need to consume the organic matter of other living things in order to be able to nourish and continue living.

In this they distinguish themselves from the autotrophic beings, capable of harnessing the energy and inorganic matter to prepare their food (such as plants, which take advantage of water and sunlight to make photosynthesis ).

Thus, autotrophs are considered producers, while heterotrophs  are considered consumers . Without the former, the latter could not exist in the long run, because eventually the living beings to consume would end.

Heterotrophic beings can be classified according to their food preferences in:

  • Herbivorous . Those who feed mainly on plants and vegetables, fruits or floral nectar, that is, who obtain their organic matter from the plant kingdom.
  • Carnivores . Also known as predators, they feed on the body of other heterotrophs, be they herbivores, smaller carnivores or of any kind. They are the hunters of each habitat , which keep the population growth of their prey at bay.
  • Detritophages . The nature recycling department is made up of detritophages, those heterotrophic beings that are responsible for the food waste of large predators, or the organic matter that falls from the trees, in short, everything that can be considered matter organic waste. Scavengers, fungi and many insects fulfill this role daily.
  • ívoros . Those who feed on everything, that is, they can combine in their diet foods from different sources: carnivore, herbivore and even in some cases detritophage. Man is an obvious case of this.
  1. Examples of heterotrophic beings

Heterotrophic beings encompass all animals, fungi and most unicellular organisms. We can offer some examples of this:

  • The big  feline predators  . Like the tiger, the lion, the panther, the puma or the cheetah, they have an exclusively carnivorous diet, so they must hunt other animals, usually good-sized herbivores.
  • Fish  and marine mammals . From the shark to the sardine, from the tuna to the dolphin, life in the sea is a constant eating or being eaten. Large fish devour small ones and feed on their organic matter, and these in turn feed on small crustaceans or plankton.
  • Fungi in their entirety . Although they may not seem so in some cases, fungi are heterotrophic beings halfway between animals and plants. They have body structures similar to the plant kingdom (such as cells with a cell wall) but feed on decomposing organic matter: wood, paint , humus-rich soils, and even the body of other living things.
  • The great African herbivores . Large animals and herbivorous food , such as giraffes, rhinos, elephants, gazelles and others, which are often prey to large predators.
  • The protozoa . These unicellular and microscopic organisms inhabit humid environments and aquatic environments, or within the organism of beings that in some cases parasitize. They feed by phagocytizing other living cells to incorporate them into your body, or by absorbing nutrients through your cell membrane . In some cases they are considered semi-heterotrophic or partially autotrophic, depending on the species.
  • Human beings . A clear example of a heterotrophic diet is ours, which ideally combines plant, animal and food from various living things. Although we must also drink water, like the rest of the animals, we cannot subsist on it only.
  • Some bacteria . The kingdom of bacteria is huge and diverse, which includes some autotrophic species (photosynthetic or chemosynthetic) and other heterotrophs, such as those that invade our body in case of infections. These bacteria then feed on our own cells and tissues.
  • Arachnids . Spiders, scorpions and centipedes are the creatures that make up this category, which are some of the most fearsome predators in the world of arthropods . Great insect hunters have each developed their strategies to capture their prey, whose internal fluids feed on.

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