Skip to main content

Heterotrophic Bacteria

Heterotrophic bacteria

Heterotrophic cells must ingest biomass to obtain their energy and nutrition. In direct contrast, autotrophs are capable of assimilating diffuse, inorganic energy and materials, and using these to synthesize biochemicals. Green plants, for example, use sunlight and simple inorganic molecules to photosynthesize organic matter. All heterotrophs have an absolute dependence on the biological products of autotrophs for their sustenancethey have no other source of nourishment.

All animals are heterotrophs, as are most microorganisms (the major exceptions being microscopic algae and blue-green bacteria ). Heterotrophs can be classified according to the sorts of biomass that they eat. Animals that eat living plants are known as herbivores, while those that eat other animals are known as carnivores. Many animals eat both plants and animals, and these are known as omnivores. Animal parasites are a special type of carnivore that are usually much smaller than their prey, and do not usually kill the animals that they feed upon.

Heterotrophic microorganisms mostly feed upon dead plants and animals, and are known as decomposers. Some animals also specialize on feeding on dead organic matter, and are known as scavengers or detritivores. Even a few vascular plants are heterotrophic, parasitizing the roots of other plants and thereby obtaining their own nourishment. These plants, which often lack chlorophyll , are known as saprophytes.

Heterotrophic bacteria, therefore, are largely responsible for the process of organic matter decomposition. Many pathogenic (disease-causing) bacteria are heterotrophs. However, many species of heterotrophic bacteria are also abundant in the environment and are considered normal flora for human skin. The recycling of minerals in aquatic ecosystems, especially in estuaries, is also made possible by heterotrophic bacteria. Although monitored by health officials, the presence of heterotrophic bacteria in public water supplies is seldom considered a public health threat.

See also Autotrophic bacteria

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Heterotrophic Bacteria." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. 9 Jul. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Heterotrophic Bacteria." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 9, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/heterotrophic-bacteria

"Heterotrophic Bacteria." World of Microbiology and Immunology. . Retrieved July 09, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/heterotrophic-bacteria

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.