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Nature’s Sanitation Workers

Whether you call it the food web, food cycle, food chain or consumer-resource system, all life forms are lumped into two trophic (food, nourishment) types: autotrophs and heterotrophs. Autotrophs are organisms that are able to produce their own food from inorganic substances like water and the sun, and have no need to consume other organisms. Most are plants but algae, phytoplankton and seaweed as well as some bacteria are also autotrophs. Conversely, heterotrophs aka carnivores, herbivores and omnivores cannot produce their own food and therefore consume the nutrients of autotrophs. The National Geographic Society lays out a clear example: mule deer (herbivores) feed on grasses (autotrophs) for its nutrients and in turn mountain lions (carnivores) kill and consume deer for their nutrition. And while the

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