Meaning of Heterotrophic Nutrition

What is Heterotrophic Nutrition:

Heterotrophic nutrition is that carried out by all living beings that need to feed on other beings or organisms, in which organic substances are transformed into nutrients and energy necessary to live.

Those who carry a heterotrophic nutrition are living beings and organisms such as humans, animals, protozoa, fungi and various bacteria.

Heterotrophic beings are much more abundant than autotrophic organisms, which are those that produce their own nutrients from inorganic substances.

However, heterotrophic beings do not have the ability to transform inorganic matter into organic, so they depend on organic elements synthesized by other organisms.

Heterotrophic nutrition happens when heterotrophic beings consume food that is digested and assimilated by the cells of the body that are responsible for absorbing organic matter, which is converted into nutrients, vitamins, minerals and energy, the latter are obtained from proteins, lipids and carbohydrates.

Types of heterotrophic nutrition

There are different types of heterotrophic nutrition depending on how your food is obtained.

  • Holozoic nutrition: refers to animals that eat all their food. This nutrition occurs in particular in those animals, such as humans, that have a specialized digestive system that allows the intake of solid foods that go through a process of ingestion, digestion and absorption of nutrients.
  • Saprotrophic nutrition: refers to organisms that feed on decaying organic matter or lifeless organic debris, for example bacteria, larvae, fungi, molds or yeast. This type of nutrition is important because it enables the recycling of organic matter from plants and animals.
  • Parasitic nutrition: it is also known as parasitism. This type of heterotrophic nutrition is typical of organisms that feed on other living beings without killing them, for example, worms, lice, ticks, among others.

See also Nutrition.

Stages of heterotrophic nutrition

Below are the stages in which heterotrophic nutrition occurs.

  • Capture: occurs when cells capture food particles through vortexes created from cilia or flagella, or by generating pseudopods, in order to surround the food.
  • Ingestion: the cell introduces food into a vacuole or phagosome. However, some hair cells have a cytostome capable of engulfing food.
  • Digestion: in this process the lysosomes spread their digestive enzymes in the phagosome, which it will transform into the digestive vacuole. In other words, the matter that is ingested is transformed into simpler substances, molecules or nutrients that can be absorbed by the body and, in turn, that can be used by cells.
  • Absorption: process in which nutrients pass into cells and circulate between them in order to absorb the nutrients necessary for the body.
  • Metabolism: phase in which chemical transformations take place in cells and, which makes it possible to carry out various vital functions such as reproduction, growth or responses to stimuli.
  • Excretion: phase in which the remains of the products generated during metabolism and that cannot be used, such as ammonia or carbon dioxide, are eliminated.

See Digestion.

Autotrophic nutrition

Autotrophic nutrition refers to organisms that have the ability to produce their own food from inorganic substances that they transform into organic, through various chemical processes. In general, autotrophic organisms generate their food using the energy of light or chemical reactions.

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