Heterotrophic Bacteria Examples: Exhaustive Insights

Heterotrophic bacteria are one of the most important consumers of the ecosystem. Here we try to discuss all possible aspects of heterotrophic bacteria examples.

Heterotophic bacteria examples

According to their food resources, there are three different types of heterotrophic bacteria present in the ecosystem

  • Parasitic: The parasitic bacteria derive energy from other living organisms. They consume energy from plants and animals. Some parasitic bacteria are pathogenic to the host. For example, Xanthomonas campestris causes blight on beans. Vibrio cholerae causes cholera in humans.
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Heterotrophic bacteria examples from pixabay

What are heterotrophs?

Heterotrophs are non-producer organisms of the ecosystem.

Organisms, who consume the producer and other consumer organisms to fulfill their need for nutrients and energy are known as heterotrophs. They can be the primary, secondary or tertiary consumers of the food chain.

For example, all animals are heterotrophic because they consume nutrients from others by eating them. Bacteria, who are heterotrophic in nature are known as heterotrophic bacteria.

Can some bacteria be heterotrophic?

Heterotrophic bacteria are one of the largest group of animals under the ecosystem.

A large number of bacteria are heterotrophic. They directly depend on the producers or other consumers for their nutrition.

Some heterotrophic bacteria derive nutrition from living organisms and show parasitic interaction with that organism. Some heterotrophic bacteria live on dead organisms or organic matter and absorb nutrients from it.

Where can you find heterotrophic bacteria?

Heterotrophic bacteria are widely spread all over the world. Bacteria are one of the most abundant species world wide.

Approximately 2×1030 bacteria are present on the Earth. From air to soil, food, water, glaciers, hot springs, chemical wastes, it can be found everywhere. Some heterotrophic bacteria, as a parasite, can be found in various plants, animals and also in human bodies.

What are the structural features of heterotrophic bacteria?

The heterotrophic bacteria usually possess different sizes and shapes. Some are typically few micrometres in length. They comprise a primitive, prokaryotic kind of cellular structure.

  • Simple cellular structure with capsule, cell wall, cytoplasm, chromosomes.
  • Prokaryotic 70S ribosomes are present within cytoplasm. The two subunits are 30S and 50S.
  • The cell wall composition is a thick or thin layer of peptidoglycan also called murein, that differs in gram-positive bacteria and gram-negative bacteria.
  • The cell membrane holds the nutrients, proteins and other cellular organelles in the cytoplasm.
  • Flagellum is present in some bacteria. It helps in movement.
  • Pilli is present outside of the cell. It helps to transfer genetic materials to other organisms and helps to stick on the surfaces.

Some bacteria can also form endospores in their cytoplasm. It contains a DNA core and ribosomes which are surrounded by a cortex layer and multiple layers of peptidoglycan protein.

To know more about eukaryotic cells and bacterial cells check out Eukaryotic Cells Vs Bacterial Cells.

To know more about DNA structure check out DNA Structure | A detailed insight with all crucial aspects.

What is the role of heterotrophic bacteria?

Heterotrophic bacteria play many significant roles to maintain the balance of our ecosystem.

  • Decomposition: One of the major roles of heterotrophic bacteria is the decomposition process. Saprophytic bacteria grow on dead and decaying organisms and absorbs nutrients from them. They break the organisms into simple compounds and decompose them.
  • Nutrients cycling: The heterotrophic bacteria play a significant role in the nutrient cycling process. Through the biodegradation process the microbes restore different organic matters into the soil. They help to regulate organic matter cycles like carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle, and phosphorus cycle in the ecosystem.
  • Human survival: There are some bacteria, live in human bodies that help us in many ways. Bacteria like Bifidobacteria, E.coli, live inside the human body (digestive tract) and help in digestion. They break the food particles into simple forms.
  • Nitrogen fixation: Some symbiotic bacteria like Rhizobium live in the root nodules of legumes. They obtain the nitrogen from free air and restore the nitrogen as nitrates or ammonia or nitrites into the soil.
  • Food technology: Some bacteria help in the fermentation process. Bacteria like Lactobacillus and Lactococcus (lactic acid bacteria) prepare yogurt, cheese from milk. Other bacteria can prepare soy sauce, vinegar, pickles, etc. This way these bacteria are very important in food technology.
  • Pathogenicity: There are some parasitic bacteria also which can cause different types of disease in their host. For example, cholera is caused by Vibrio cholerae, diphtheria is caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae, bubonic plague is caused by Yersinia pestis, pneumonia is caused by Streptococcus pneumonia. The bacteria attack the human body and enter. The immune system recognises the foreign antigen and starts to react.
Heterotrophic bacteria examples

Disease caused by heterotrophic bacteria from pixabay

Is Bacillus heterotrophic bacteria?

Yes, Bacillus is heterotrophic bacteria that means it cannot make its own food. It depends on others for their nutrition.

For example, Bacillus cereus is a heterotrophic bacterium which decomposes organic matter and absorbs nourishment from them.

Is legionella heterotrophic bacteria?

Legionella is a heterotrophic bacteriam which has pathogenicity. It causes a type of pneumonia (lung infection) called Legionnaires’ disease and illness called Pontiac fever. It highly infects its host and causes diseases.

For example Legionella pneumophila is a primary human pathogenic bacteria that cause legionellosis.

Are heterotrophic bacteria decomposers?

Among three different types of heterotrophic bacteria, some bacteria act as decomposers.

The saprophytic bacteria grows on dead organisms or organic matter and breaks the organic compounds and melts (decomposition) them into the soil. These kind of heterotrophic bacterias are the example of decomposers.

For example Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas fluorescens are some common saprophytes that help in the decomposition process.

Are heterotrophic bacteria unicellular?

Yes, heterotrophic bacteria are unicellular prokaryotic organisms. That means it consists of a single cell, which carries out all of the required functions of that organism.

Are heterotrophic bacteria prokaryotic or eukaryotic?

Heterotrophic bacteria typically have a single prokaryotic type of cell that means they are typically prokaryotes.

Do heterotrophic bacteria need oxygen?

There are two kinds of bacteria present. Some bacteria need oxygen to survive and some bacteria don’t need oxygen to survive.

According to their need for oxygen bacteria can be classified in two different categories like aerobic and anaerobic.

  • The aerobic bacteria need oxygen to grow and survive in the environment. Bacteria like Nocardia sp. and Pseudomonas aeruginosa need oxygen for their metabolic functions.
  • The anaerobic bacteria can survive without oxygen. In some obligate anaerobes the presence of oxygen, can disrupt their metabolism and even kill them. For example, Chytridiomycota is an obligate anaerobe that lives in the rumen of cattle and uses anaerobic respiration process.

Why do heterotrophs need nitrogen?

Heterotrophs need nitrogen because nitrogen is a part of their cellular structure. Amino acids, genetic materials, ATP everything is made up of nitrogen molecules. So nitrogen is very essential for them.

How do heterotrophs obtain phosphorus?

Most heterotrophs get phosphorus from their food resources (producers or other consumers or dead and decaying organisms). They obtain the phosphorus by absorbing it from another organism’s body.

How is nitrogen obtained by heterotrophs?

Heterotrophs obtain nitrogen from other organisms as nitrate compounds from whom they eat or depend on for nutrition. Some bacteria who are capable of nitrogen fixation process obtain nitrogen from free air and obtain that.

How do heterotrophs consume energy?

Heterotrophs are typically consumers. They cannot make their food to survive.

Heterotrophs consume energy from other organisms. They eat other producers or consumers and consume energy from them. Some parasitic heterotrophs obtain energy from their host. Some heterotrophs consume energy from dead or decaying organisms (saprophytes).

As a whole, we can say that heterotrophic bacteria are one of the pillars of our ecosystem.There are several kinds of bacteria present all around us. We give a clear idea about heterotrophic bacteria examples. Their role in maintaining the integrity of the ecosystem is immense.

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