Autotrophic bacteria describes a diverse group of microorganisms that are able to make their own energy. To make the energy essential for life and everyday functioning, the bacteria take inorganic substances and turn them into organic substances that can be broken down. There are two major classes of autotrophs: Chemoautotrophs and photoautotrophs.
Chemoautotrophs are bacteria that use chemical energy. They are able to take in carbon dioxide and water and convert those substances into carbohydrates and sugars. Carbohydrates and sugar are the main energy sources for bacteria. These bacteria are incredibly useful in the atmosphere. Since carbon dioxide is a waste product from other sources, these microorganisms serve as a sort of recycling plants, turning carbon dioxide into a useful source of energy.
One interesting fact about chemoautotrophs is that they thrive at higher temperatures. Some can be found in hot springs, which have temperatures much higher than the average bacteria. These bacteria are unique in that they can survive in an environment were almost all other bacteria would die. Halophiles are also a type of chemoautotroph. Halophile is an organism that can live in a salt-abundant environment. Scientists were surprised to discover halophiles in the Dead Sea since the high salt content was sufficient to kill other organisms, but these are able to survive the caustic environment.
Photoautotrophs are autotrophs that obtain their energy from sunlight. Much like plants, these organisms can turn light energy into chemical energy that will fuel the bacteria’s processes. These organisms contain a green pigment called cyanobacteria. Much like the chlorophyll in plants, this substance helps to convert carbon dioxide and sunlight into oxygen and sugar.
These bacteria do have some unique characteristics also. There are not many organisms that use light energy as an energy source. Radiation from the sun’s rays is usually seen as a damaging force. These bacteria differ in that they are able to convert a somewhat dangerous source of energy into a usable one. These bacteria are in a variety of colors. They are mostly darker colors which help to attract sunlight, but range from green to purple, with a few dark blue bacteria as well. The color helps identification of bacteria. Autotrophs are a unique and interesting part of the bacterial world. They perform essential tasks, even though they cannot be seen by the named eye. Autotrophic bacteria are currently being studied by scientists interested in their properties and the ramifications for today’s world.