Are there completely self-sufficient autotrophs which can survive and reproduce indefinitely by consuming exclusively non-organic matter (plus energy from sunlight or thermal vents etc.)? I'm asking specifically.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This is essentially the same question you already asked, but expressed in a more scientifc manner. Please delete the previous question. $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 12:11

1 Answer 1


It really depends on what you mean by "organic matter". No cell is going to be able to grow and reproduce without an appropriate source of CHON atoms (plus lesser amounts of the other necessary elements).

So, if by organic matter you mean CHON+, then no, everything needs organic matter to grow and reproduce.

If by organic matter, however, you mean natural organic materials like soil or groundwater, then yes, there are lots of things that can live on chemical mixtures that can be produced by purely synthetic means. A simple example is M9 media, which is a commonly used bacterial culture medium.

  • $\begingroup$ @user1136 You should not answer in the comments: if you have an answer prepared, please post it as an answer and not as a comment. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 15:16
  • $\begingroup$ @user1136 — Re your last sentence. This is not a discussion site so don’t embark on one. Just write an answer of your own to the question as an answer. (I have already flagged for deletion the answer you posted as a comment, which ignored the explicit injunction not to answer questions in comments. I’d advice you to copy it into an answer before it disappears.) $\endgroup$
    – David
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 15:21
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Why would groundwater be considered an organic material? $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 18:36
  • $\begingroup$ @jamesqf Natural water sources are typically full of dissolved or suspended organic materials en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_matter#Aquatic $\endgroup$
    – jakebeal
    Commented Jul 21, 2019 at 18:43
  • $\begingroup$ @jakebeal: Natural water sources, yes, if you include lakes & streams. But at least in my experience, most groundwater has little or no organic material. $\endgroup$
    – jamesqf
    Commented Jul 22, 2019 at 4:55

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .