Autotrophs: Definition, Examples & Types

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: The Three Domains of Life

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Autotrophs Defined
  • 0:50 Types of Autotrophs
  • 1:54 Examples of Autotrophs
  • 3:26 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sarah Friedl

Sarah has two Master's, one in Zoology and one in GIS, a Bachelor's in Biology, and has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

As human beings, we need to eat living things for energy. Other organisms are able to make their own food. Autotrophs can provide energy sources for themselves as well as for those of us who can't produce it on our own.

Autotrophs Defined

Every living thing needs energy in order to survive. We get this energy from the foods that we eat. The things that we eat were once living things and are full of energy themselves. Living things that need to eat other living things to survive are called heterotrophs, or 'other feeders.' Because heterotrophs cannot make their own food, they are called consumers.

But imagine that you could eat without actually eating. This is exactly what autotrophs do. Autotrophs are self-feeders, and they get their energy from non-living sources such as the sun and carbon dioxide. Autotrophs are called producers because they provide energy and food sources for all heterotrophic organisms.

Types of Autotrophs

There are two types of autotrophs: photoautotrophs and chemoautotrophs. Photoautotrophs get their energy from sunlight and convert it into usable energy (sugar). This process is called photosynthesis. During the process of photosynthesis, not only is sunlight turned into energy, but carbon dioxide is taken from the air and oxygen is released in its place. Because animals depend on this oxygen to breathe, we should be very thankful for this exchange!

Chemoautotrophs get their energy from chemicals, mainly inorganic substances such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia. Inorganic substances are those that are not from biological sources, and they do not contain carbon as a main element. Chemoautotrophs are able to survive in very harsh environmental conditions because the only source of carbon they need is carbon dioxide.

Examples of Autotrophs

Most plants are autotrophs, but all autotrophic plants are photoautotrophs. Plants have structures called chloroplasts that allow them to capture the sunlight used for photosynthesis. Plants also get nutrition from water, various minerals in the soil, such as nitrogen and phosphorous, and carbon dioxide in the air.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support