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5 Key Differences Between Autotrophic And Heterotrophic Mode Of Nutrition

Food nourishes the body with nutrients and energy, which is in turn required to carry out basic functionalities on a daily basis. The nutrition acquired from food is necessary for the body's development, growth and repair of damaged cells and tissues.


All living entities such as animals, plants, and microbes require nutrition. Nutrients that are present in food are:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats
  • Vitamins
  • Minerals


Green plants are the only entities that can prepare their own nutrients through the process of photosynthesis as they possess chloroplasts. Other living entities depend either indirectly or directly for nutrient acquisition from plants.


There are different modes of acquiring nutrition, two to be precise. They are:

  • Autotrophic mode of nutrition - Autotrophic nutrition is adapted by autotrophs wherein they manufacture their own food. In the food chain, autotrophs are primary producers.
  • Heterotrophic mode of nutrition - Heterotrophic nutrition is observed in heterotrophs wherein they derive their nutrition intake from other sources. Heterotrophs are secondary and tertiary consumers in the food chain.


5 Differences Between Autotrophic And Heterotrophic Nutrition

Listed below is the difference between autotrophic and heterotrophic nutrition:


  1. Autotrophs are producers, preparing their own food with the help of sunlight, water, and air whereas heterotrophs are incapable of preparing their own food. They depend on others to fulfill their nutritional requirements and hence are consumers.


  1. One of the key factors distinguishing heterotrophs and autotrophs is the presence or absence of chloroplasts. Autotrophs such as green plants possess chloroplasts with the help of which they synthesize their own food.



  1. Autotrophs(plants) usually cannot move from one place to another whereas heterotrophs are capable of movement for food and other requirements.


  1. Autotrophs acquire their energy from inorganic sources wherein light energy is converted into chemical energy whereas heterotrophs derive their energy either indirectly or directly from other entities.


  1. Heterotrophic nutrition can further be classified into
  • Holozoic
  • Parasitic
  • Saprophytic
  • Symbiotic Association

Autotrophic nutrition can be categorized into:

  • Chemotrophic
  • Phototrophic

 For more information on autotrophs and heterotrophs, the difference between C3 and C4 plants, modes of nutrition, or any other related topic.

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