nutrition, study of the materials that nourish an organism and of the manner in which the separate components are used for maintenance, repair, growth, and reproduction. Nutrition is achieved in various ways by different forms of life. Plants that contain the green pigment chlorophyll can synthesize their food from inorganic substances in the process called photosynthesis. Organisms such as plants that can thus manufacture complex organic compounds from simple inorganic nutrients are termed autotrophic. Organisms that must obtain "prefabricated" organic compounds from their environment are heterotrophic, and these include the fungi, some other plants, and animals. Heterotrophic plants may be saprophytic (obtaining nutrients from dead organisms) or parasitic (obtaining nutrients from living organisms while living on or in them). Heterotrophic animals may be parasites, herbivores (plant eaters), carnivores (meat eaters), or omnivores (obtaining nutrition from both plants and animals).

Sections in this article:

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Biochemistry