definition of autotroph

By autotroph we understand all organisms that have the ability to make their own food from inorganic substances such as non-living elements on 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 make their food.

The word autotroph comes from the Greek language, for which cars means 'self', 'of oneself' and trophe 'nutrition', resulting in "self-made nutrition". 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 takes place) 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 are, needless to say, very important so that the rest of the organisms can participate in it. Because the autotrophs are the only beings to take energy directly from the environment to feed themselves, the rest of the beings (heterotrophs) need the synthesis process that the first ones carry out in a natural way. Thus, animals and humans consume plants to receive energy already processed. 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 make their food as we have already seen. Bacteria are another type of autotrophic being.

In the case of vegetables, photosynthesis is called the process of generating food. Yes or yes, this process demands the energy of the sun to be carried out. They are the leaves, the most important elements of the plant and those that then 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 the atmosphere of our planet was determined by this process of photosynthesis. Thanks to this contribution made by plants, the percentage of oxygen in the air increases and that is why 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 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 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 as 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 perform 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 like autotrophs of feeding themselves by their own production, so they must feed with contributions from nature that other organisms have already synthesized, such as mentioned vegetables.