Autotroph vs Heterotroph Producer vs Consumer

Autotrophs vs. Heterotrophs aka Producers vs. Consumers.

An autotroph is an organism that can self-feed.The word autotroph comes from the Greek word auto which means self and trophe which means nourishing. Autotrophs are the producers of a food web. Some common examples would includ all plants, algae, and some protists. Autotrophs form the base of the energy pyramid. Autotrophs are also called producers.


Producers are organisms that make their own food from inorganic materials. They are the foundation of the food chain, as they provide food for all other organisms. Producers include plants, algae, and some bacteria.

Plants are the most important producers on Earth. They use photosynthesis to convert sunlight, water, and carbon dioxide into glucose, which is a type of sugar. Glucose is used by plants for energy and to build new cells.

Algae are also important producers. They are found in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Algae use photosynthesis to produce food, just like plants. However, algae are not as efficient at photosynthesis as plants, so they produce less food.

Bacteria are also producers. Some bacteria use photosynthesis to produce food, while others use chemosynthesis to produce food. Chemosynthesis is a process that uses chemical energy to produce food.

The term heterotroph comes from the Greek word meaning heteros which means other, and trophe which means nutrition. Heterotrophs get their energy by eating other plants and animals. They use Sugar + oxygen to produce carbon dioxide + water and energy in the form of ATP.

This process is called cellular respiration. Some Heterotrophs only eat plants, others only eat meat, and others eat plants and animals.

Heterotrophs are also called consumers.


Consumers in biology are organisms that obtain their energy from the consumption of other organisms. This can include animals, plants, and even microorganisms. Consumers are essential to the ecosystem, as they help to recycle nutrients and energy.

There are two main types of consumers: primary consumers and secondary consumers. Primary consumers are organisms that eat plants, while secondary consumers eat other animals. Tertiary consumers are organisms that eat secondary consumers.

Consumers play an important role in the food chain, as they help to transfer energy from one trophic level to the next. The food chain is a model that shows how energy flows through an ecosystem. It starts with producers, which are organisms that can make their own food, such as plants. Producers are eaten by primary consumers, which are then eaten by secondary consumers, and so on.

Consumers are also important for recycling nutrients. When they eat other organisms, they break down the organic matter into nutrients that can be used by plants. This process is called decomposition.

Autotrophs and heterotrophs interact in a fundamental way through the process of photosynthesis and cellular respiration.

So, autotrophs and heterotrophs have a complementary relationship:

  • Autotrophs produce food and release oxygen through photosynthesis, which are essential for the survival of heterotrophs.
  • Heterotrophs consume the food produced by autotrophs and, in the process, release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which is used by autotrophs for photosynthesis.


You can see this illustrated in the food web.

food chain

This interdependence between autotrophs and heterotrophs is crucial for maintaining the balance and stability of ecosystems and the cycling of nutrients.

food web

Autotroph vs Heterotroph