AskDefine | Define autotroph

Dictionary Definition

autotroph n : plant capable of synthesizing its own food from simple organic substances [syn: autophyte, autophytic plant, autotrophic organism]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. any organism that can synthesize its food from inorganic substances, using heat or light as a source of energy

Extensive Definition

An autotroph (from the Greek autos = self and trophey-like = nutrition) is an organism that produces complex organic compounds from simple inorganic molecules using energy from light or inorganic chemical reactions.
Autotrophs are the producers in a food chain. Plants and other organisms which carry out photosynthesis are photoautotrophs (or phototrophs). Bacteria which derive energy from oxidizing inorganic compounds (such as hydrogen sulfide, ammonium and ferrous iron) are chemoautotrophs, and include the lithotrophs.
Autotrophs are fundamental to the food chains of all plant ecosystems. They take energy from the environment (in the form of sunlight or inorganic chemicals) and use it to create carbon-based organic molecules. Other organisms, called heterotrophs, take in autotrophs as food to carry out such functions. Thus, heterotrophs — animals, fungi, as well as most bacteria and protozoa — depend on autotrophs for the energy and raw materials they need. This mechanism is called primary production in the sea. Heterotrophs obtain energy by breaking down organic molecules obtained in food. Carnivorous animals ultimately rely on autotrophs because the energy and organic building blocks obtained from their prey comes from autotrophs they preyed upon.
There are some species(species come from the ground or the soil) of organisms that require organic compounds as a source of carbon, but are able to use light or inorganic compounds as a source of energy. Such organisms are not defined as autotrophic, but rather as heterotrophic. An organism that obtains carbon from organic compounds but obtains energy from light is called a photoheterotroph, while an organism that obtains carbon from organic compounds but obtains energy from the oxidation of inorganic compounds is termed a chemoheterotroph. i
autotroph in Bulgarian: Автотроф
autotroph in Catalan: Autotròfia
autotroph in Czech: Autotrofie
autotroph in Danish: Autotrof
autotroph in German: Autotrophie
autotroph in Estonian: Autotroof
autotroph in Spanish: Nutrición autótrofa
autotroph in Esperanto: Aŭtotrofo
autotroph in Basque: Autotrofo
autotroph in Persian: خودپروردگی
autotroph in French: Autotrophie
autotroph in Galician: Autótrofo
autotroph in Korean: 자가영양생물
autotroph in Croatian: Autotrofija
autotroph in Interlingua (International Auxiliary Language Association): Autotropho
autotroph in Icelandic: Frumbjarga lífvera
autotroph in Italian: Autotrofia
autotroph in Hebrew: אוטוטרוף
autotroph in Lithuanian: Autotrofai
autotroph in Hungarian: Autotrófia
autotroph in Dutch: Autotroof
autotroph in Japanese: 独立栄養生物
autotroph in Norwegian: Autotrofi
autotroph in Occitan (post 1500): Autotrofia
autotroph in Polish: Samożywność
autotroph in Portuguese: Autotrofismo
autotroph in Romanian: Autotrof
autotroph in Russian: Продуценты
autotroph in Simple English: Autotroph
autotroph in Slovak: Autotrofia
autotroph in Serbian: Аутотрофи
autotroph in Swedish: Autotrof
autotroph in Thai: ออโตทรอพ
autotroph in Turkish: Ototroflar
autotroph in Ukrainian: Автотрофи
autotroph in Chinese: 自养生物
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