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.

  • $\begingroup$ This is essentially the same question you already asked, but expressed in a more scientifc manner. Please delete the previous question. $\endgroup$ – David Jul 22 '19 at 12:11

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.

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  • $\begingroup$ IMO the OP is asking if any organisms exist that are capable of the synthesis of all of the organic material "independent of the rays of the sun" (Winogradsky 1887, cited by Umbreit, 1962, see above). That is, are there any organisms that can obtain all their energy from the oxidation of inorganic substances, and can 'fix' CO2 (the sole carbon source) independent of photosynthesis. (Nitrosomonas is an affirmative example). We could have a long discussion on this one! $\endgroup$ – user1136 Jul 21 '19 at 15:12
  • $\begingroup$ @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 Jul 21 '19 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 Jul 21 '19 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Why would groundwater be considered an organic material? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf Jul 21 '19 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 Jul 21 '19 at 18:43

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