Home / Life Science / Chemoheterotroph


Chemoheterotrophs are heterotrophic organisms and, thus, unlike chemoautotrophs, cannot synthesize their food. They derive carbon synthesized by other living organisms. Chemoheterotrophs are vital for sustaining life on Earth.

It was predicted that the first living organism to evolve on Earth was a marine chemoheterotrophic bacteria.   

Examples of Chemoheterotrophs

All animals, including humans, fungi such as mushrooms, and many bacteria such as E. coli and archaea in the hydrothermal vents are examples of chemoheterotrophs.

Types of Chemoheterotrophs

Depending on their source of carbon, chemoheterotrophic organisms are of two types:

1. Chemolithoheterotrophs

They are organisms that use inorganic substances as their source of carbon. Chemolithoheterotrophs are mostly bacteria found in extreme environments like hydrothermal vents. They obtain their carbon source by feeding on other bacteria or dead matter on the sea floors.

2. Chemoorganoheterotrophs

They are organisms that use organic substances as their source of carbon. They include all animals and fungi. Such organisms mostly get energy by simply ingesting glucose, an organic molecule. Chemoorganoheterotrophs can be further grouped based on the kind of organic substrate they use. Decomposers and scavengers use the dead organic matter of plants and animals. In contrast, herbivores and carnivores derive carbon from living organisms.

Functions of Chemoheterotrophs

They play a vital role in almost all ecosystems.

1. Controlling the Food Chain

Producers occupy the bottom of the food chain and are responsible for producing food for all other ecosystems. Herbivores eat producers, which in turn are eaten by carnivores and omnivores. Omnivores like humans also feed on carnivores for food. Decomposers and scavengers feed on plants and animals dead and decaying matter to release the carbon back into the atmosphere. This way, chemoheterotrophs help to maintain the balance in nature.

2. Recycling Carbon in Nature

They recycle carbon in nature, thus keeping the carbon cycle running. The carbohydrate in the food produced by the autotrophs is utilized by herbivores and then by carnivores and omnivores. It is ultimately released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide when decomposers or detritivores decompose the body of dead organic matter from plants and animals.

3. Sustaining Marine Life

Chemoheterotrophs sustain the underwater marine ecosystem as all microorganisms living under the sea perform chemosynthesis instead of photosynthesis due to the absence of sunlight.

4. Cleaning up the Ecosystem

Decomposers or detritivores helps to clean up the ecosystem by mineralizing the dead remains of plant and animals.


Q.1. What is the difference between chemoheterotrophs and chemoautotrophs?

Ans. Chemoheterotrophs cannot utilize carbon dioxide and form their food. In contrast, chemoautotrophs use inorganic energy sources to synthesize food as carbohydrates using carbon dioxide.


Article was last reviewed on Saturday, October 22, 2022

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.