Chemoheterotroph: Definition, Function, Types, And Examples

Chemoheterotroph Definition

A chemoheterotroph is an organism that obtains energy by ingesting intermediates or building blocks that it is incapable of creating on its own. This includes animals and fungi. Chemoheterotrophs are different from chemoautotrophs, which obtain energy through chemosynthesis rather than by photosynthesis.

Function of Chemoheterotrophs

Chemoheterotrophs are organisms that obtain energy and carbon from organic compounds. They play a significant role in most ecosystems by feeding on producers at the top of the energy pyramid.

Producers, such as plants, make energy and organic materials from scratch, while chemoheterotrophs feed on those producers. Chemoheterotrophs include herbivores, predators, scavengers, and decomposers.

Chemoheterotrophs can be classified into two types: chemolithoheterotrophs and chemoorganoheterotrophs. Chemolithoheterotrophs utilize inorganic electron sources such as sulfur, while chemoorganoheterotrophs utilize organic electron sources such as carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.

Most animals and fungi are examples of chemoorganoheterotrophs. Halophiles are also examples of chemoheterotrophs that use salt to generate ATP instead of oxygen.

Types of Chemoheterotrophs

Chemoorganoheterotrophs – Eaters of Living Things

Chemoorganoheterotrophs are organisms that obtain energy by breaking down organic compounds. They are also known as heterotrophs, which means they rely on other organisms for food.

Chemoorganoheterotrophs can be found in many different environments, including soil, water, and the human body. Some examples of chemoorganoheterotrophs include animals, fungi, and many types of bacteria.

While chemoorganoheterotrophs do consume living things for energy, it is important to note that not all chemoorganoheterotrophs are harmful or pathogenic.

 In fact, many chemoorganoheterotrophic bacteria play important roles in maintaining healthy ecosystems and even in human health. For example, some bacteria in the gut help with digestion and nutrient absorption.

Not all organisms that consume living things are chemoorganoheterotrophs. For example, some organisms such as plants and algae use photosynthesis to produce their own food from sunlight and carbon dioxide.

Other organisms such as carnivorous plants consume insects or other small animals for nutrients but do not rely solely on this type of diet.

Chemolithoheterotrophs – Stone Eaters

Chemolithoheterotrophs are a type of chemotroph that derive their energy from inorganic minerals or other geological processes. They use inorganic compounds as an energy source and reduced organic compounds as a carbon source. Chemolithoheterotrophs are generally bacteria.

The process of chemolithotrophy is the oxidation of inorganic chemicals for the generation of energy, which can use oxidative phosphorylation, just like aerobic and anaerobic respiration. However, the substance being oxidized (the electron donor) is an inorganic compound.

Chemolithoheterotrophs are known as mixotrophs because they use both organic and inorganic sources of carbon. Some examples of food sources for chemolithoheterotrophs include elemental sulfur and elemental gas.

These organisms play an important role in biogeochemical cycles by breaking down minerals and releasing nutrients into the environment.

For example, some chemolithoheterotrophic bacteria can oxidize iron or sulfur to release energy while also producing sulfuric acid or ferric iron as waste products. This process can contribute to acid mine drainage, which can have negative environmental impacts on aquatic ecosystems.

Examples of Chemoheterotrophs


Humans are chemoheterotrophs, which means that we derive our energy from chemicals and need to consume other organisms in order to live. Chemoheterotrophs fall into two categories: chemolithoheterotrophs or chemoorganoheterotrophs.

Humans are chemoorganoheterotrophs, meaning that we obtain energy from the oxidation of organic compounds such as proteins, polysaccharides, and lipids. All chemotrophic organisms require carbon to survive and reproduce.


Fungi, including mushrooms, are chemoheterotrophs. Chemoheterotrophs derive their energy from breaking down organic material, which is often already dead or not well-defended by its host immune system. Fungi must obtain both their energy and carbon skeletons by absorbing pre-digested nutrients from the environment.

Lithotrophic Bacteria

Lithotrophic bacteria are not chemoheterotrophs, but rather chemolithotrophs. Chemolithotrophs are autotrophs that do not need to consume other organisms to survive. They obtain their energy through the oxidation of inorganic molecules such as iron and magnesium.

Lithoheterotrophs, on the other hand, cannot use their inorganic energy source as a carbon source for the synthesis of their cells and must consume additional organic compounds in order to break them apart and use them.

An example of chemoheterotrophic bacteria is a sub-type called lithotrophic bacteria, also known as “rock eaters” or “stone eaters”.

Share On:

Most Popular

Related Posts