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15 Examples of Heterotrophic Organisms

The heterotrophic organisms are those that must transform the organic matter of other living beings to acquire the nutrients and energy necessary to survive. They differ from autotrophic organisms , capable of synthesizing the substances necessary for their growth and survival from inorganic materials.

This type of feeding requires the previous presence of organic matter to consume and convert into its own and is common to all members of the animal kingdom , fungi, protozoa , much of the bacteria and archaea. Plants and phytocellular organisms are, on the other hand, autotrophs . And there are organisms capable of both methods of feeding, called mixtotrophs .

The life of the heterotrophic organisms , then, will be conditioned to the consumption of organic matter (living or dead, as the case may be) and for this they have diverse metabolisms capable of extracting the nutrients of energetic or structural value lipids , proteins , carbohydrates ) that later they will integrate their own bodies, and discard the rest by means of some system of excretion. They are, to that extent, the great transformers of organic matter. It can help you: Examples of Autotrophic Organisms

Examples of heterotrophic organisms


  1. Goats, cows and ruminant animals . Of exclusively vegetarian diet, these animals extract from the plants all the organic content necessary to survive and build their own tissues, which serve as sustenance for predators .
  2. Lions, tigers, big feline predators . The great meat eaters of the animal kingdom need to hunt and devour other animals, usually large herbivores that match their habitats, in order to consume the necessary nutrients to start their own metabolism.
  3. Fungi and decomposers of the fungi kingdom . Fungi, in spite of being immobile like plants, do not share with them the capacity of photosynthesis that converts sunlight into energy, so they must decompose and absorb previous organic matter, either from the decomposing humus of the soils in the forests, of the humid and enclosed parts of the skin of a host, or of the excrements of other living beings, depending on the type of fungus (decomposer, parasite, etc.).
  4. Fish and eels and rays . Predators of the underwater animal kingdom, organized in different possible trophic chains in which, as the proverb says, there is always a bigger fish . The truth is that they must consume other smaller living beings to assimilate the molecular and caloric content of their bodies (usually they digest them whole) and thus keep walking their own.
  5. Whales and other marine mammals . Some of these marine mammals , like the dolphin, prey on small fish such as sardines; others feed on the filtrate of the microscopic plankton of the waters, like the whale. In both cases, they require the consumption and digestion of these living beings to extract the necessary nutrients for life.
  6. Most bacteria . The most abundant organisms on the planet, of which approximately 50% are known, are the great transformers of the planet’s matter. Many of them are autotrophic, capable of photosynthesis or chemosynthesis , but most of them are dedicated to the processing of external organic substances, either parasitizing other living beings or decomposing dead organic matter.
  7. Carnivorous plants . So nicknamed because they have organs specifically adapted to the digestion of small insects that, attracted by the sweetness of their aromas (or often because they smell like decomposing meat), are then captured and slowly digested to provide the plant with supplementary organic material .
  8. All kinds of birds . Whether they feed on insects and earthworms, fruit trees or their leaves, floral nectar, fish and small rodents, or other smaller birds, birds in their entirety require the intake and assimilation of matter coming from other living beings to be able to stay alive.
  9. Elephants, rhinos, hippos. These large African mammals, despite their size, are fed tons and tons of vegetables, seeds, shrubs and barks. All this rich in organic matter that assimilate and nourishes the composition of its bulky quadruped bodies.
  10. Protozoans . Its name means “first animal” and it is because they are unicellular and eukaryotic organisms , but in turn predators or detritivores, that is, heterotrophs (although in some cases they can be mixotrophs or partially autotrophs). A good example of its mode of nourishment is the amoeba (or amoeba ), which phagocytes cells of other types, including other protozoa, and after isolating them inside dissolves them and assimilates the cellular content of the prey into the body.
  11. Earthworms, moisture pillbugs and other detritivores . They are called “detritivores” because they ingest detritus , that is, waste or debris from other biotic processes, such as rotten wood, organic remains of dead animals, etc. These animals are vital to the chain of energy transmission in the trophic pyramids and are, of course, heterotrophs.
  12. Mice, marmots and rodents in general . A wide and varied diet, which can range from eggs and small lizards to pieces of cardboard or wood, rodents are all heterotrophs because they depend on the intake of these materials, alive or not, to be able to nourish their own body.
  13. Octopus, molluscs and bivalves . Other marine inhabitants that usually either prey on crustaceans or even smaller molluscs, or simply filter the plankton of the waters through a system of beards. In any case, they are beings in need of organic matter to live and provided with metabolisms adapted to their specific diet.
  14. Spiders, scorpions and arachnids . The great predators of the world of arthropods are the arachnids: the hunters and devourers of other vegetarian insects or hunters in turn, are equipped with all the necessary arsenal to violate or trap their prey and then suck their juices to feed, leaving behind an empty shell and sometimes not even that.
  15. Man . The omnivorous major, able to feed on most of the animal or plant species that he knows and grows in captivity, as well as plants and vegetables, and even industrially produced foods from organic substances, is the closest example of heterotrophic food that we have.


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