Biotic Factors – Definition, Types, Examples

Definition of Biotic Factor 

Biotic factors are the living components or variables that have an effect on an ecosystem or other species residing in that ecosystem.

  • Biotic factors (sometimes referred to as biotic components) are the living elements of an ecosystem. “biotic” implies “of or pertaining to biological beings.”
  • All live species and physicochemical components make up an ecosystem. Additionally known as biotic factors and abiotic factors, respectively.
  • They collaborate and function as a unit. Abiotic factors include physical and chemical factors such as sunshine, water, temperature, and other non-living elements of an ecosystem.
  • Biotic factors are the living components of an ecosystem, such as bacteria, birds, and other organisms. The focus of this article is on the biotic elements that shape ecosystems.
  • Bacteria that reside in an animal’s intestine are biotic elements that have gained the function of aiding in the digestion of food in the intestine. Another example is the population of zebras, antelope, or other animals, which are biotic factors for lions that hunt and eat them for survival.
  • A virus that causes disease is a biotic agent that can affect animal and human populations, especially on a large scale, by generating disease. In addition to bacteria that cause disease (pathogens), biotic factors may include parasites, predators, symbionts, prey, and competitors.

Biology definition

A biotic factor is a factor produced by a live organism or any living component in its surroundings as a result of the organism’s actions. Biotic factors are those that result from the actions of a living creature or any living component in an environment, such as the acts of one organism that influence the life of another. In the habitat of a quail, for instance, biotic variables include the quail’s prey (e.g., insects, seeds, etc.) and its predators (e.g. coyotes). Etymology: biotic, derived from the Ancient Greek (bitikós), meaning “of life” (from o (bos), meaning “life”) Plus -ic. Compare: abiotic factor

Importance of Biotic Factors in an Ecosystem

  • The interplay of organisms in an ecosystem determines its environment. Examples of biotic factors in a river or sea include fish, aquatic plants, algae, and amphibians. Both biotic and abiotic elements contribute to the formation of a distinct ecosystem.
  • As it is now evident that the biotic element refers to a living organism, it follows that they require a specific quantity of energy, food, and habitat in order to function properly. They obtain their sustenance and energy from the environment.
  • It is normal for one biotic component to depend on another biotic factor for survival in an ecosystem. For instance, a deer is the biotic factor for predators, but it relies on plants for survival.
  • Plants are also biotic environmental variables. However, their dependence on other biotic elements for sustenance is not as extensive as that of predators and prey.
  • They generate their own nourishment through photosynthesis. However, plants require CO2 for food production, which they obtain from natural sources such as animals exhaling CO2 during breathing (respiration).
  • Additionally, some plants are “carnivorous,” getting nourishment by trapping animals (such as insects) with a specialised organ. A plant that fits this description is the Venus flytrap. Despite their incredible ability to consume animals, these carnivorous plants would produce their own sustenance through photosynthesis.
  • As plants are the primary producers in an ecosystem, many creatures thrive in plant-rich settings.
  • However, other organisms are also present in areas devoid of plant life. Deep oceans, lava beds, and deserts are examples of abiotic factors. Examples of biotic factors in deserts include cactus plants, desert lizards, and snakes.

Types of Biotic Factors

Scientists classify biotic elements into three broad categories that define their involvement in the energy flow required by all organisms to exist in an ecosystem. These groups include autotrophs, heterotrophs, and detritivores.

1. Producers

  • Producers, also known as autotrophs, are creatures that manufacture their own food from inorganic materials and energy sources.
  • Without producers, there could be no life!
  • The first life forms on Earth had to learn to create fuel and construction materials from nonliving substances in order to reproduce. When the earliest life forms formed, there were no other life forms for them to consume! Therefore, the early forms of life had to be producers.
  • As the only organisms capable of harnessing inorganic energy for use as a source of fuel for life, producers continue to play a crucial role in the modern world.

Types of Producers

There are two significant categories of producers:


a. Photoautotrophs

  • As their name implies, photoautotrophs are producers that use solar energy to create their food. On Earth, photoautotrophs are the most prevalent producers.
  • Included in their examples are green vegetation and algae. Photoautotrophs transform inorganic chemicals into organic ones via photosynthesis.
  • They utilise chlorophyll (green pigment) to absorb photons from sunlight.
  • The photoautotrophs then convert this energy into forms (such as carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and fats) that other organisms can ingest.
  • Many species obtain their energy from plants. Herbivores are animals that depend on a plant-based diet.
  • Carnivorous (meat-eating) animals (e.g., lion, tiger, etc.) that do not eat plants directly but feed on herbivores (e.g., zebras) depend indirectly on plants for their survival.
  • A decline in the population of prey caused by a lack of plant-based diet will have an effect on the population of predators over time. Therefore, these organisms indirectly rely on photoautotrophs.
  • In addition to plants, there are certain photoautotrophic microorganisms. Cyanobacteria are prokaryotic organisms that do photosynthesis using oxygen and sunlight.
  • These bacteria can be found in nearly all environmental conditions, including soil, freshwater, lichen, and ocean. During chemical reactions, these bacteria use water as an electron source to decrease carbon dioxide.

b. Chemoautotrophs 

  • Chemoautotrophs are uncommon in the majority of environments. They obtain energy from substances that are uncommon in typical surroundings, such as hydrogen, iron, and sulphur.
  • Despite this, they can nevertheless play a significant role in ecosystems due to their peculiar biochemistry.
  • Some methanogens, or methane-producing microbes, are chemoautotrophs. Methane, a greenhouse gas significantly more potent than carbon dioxide, may have a significant role in regulating the temperature of the world.
  • Other chemoautotrophs are capable of producing similarly potent compounds due to their distinct metabolisms.
  • It is unknown if the earliest life forms on Earth were photoautotrophs or chemoautotrophs.
  • Today, photoautotrophs are more prevalent than chemoautotrophs, but this may be because sunlight is more abundant than the chemicals chemoautotrophs use as an energy source.

Examples of Producers

  • Air plants, Apricot mallow, Arctic azaleas, Arctic moss, Arctic poppy, Arctic willow, Avocado, Ball moss, Bamboo, Banana trees, Bear berry, Bees – yellow jacket, wasp, honey, carpenter, hornets; Big galleta, Blue Dicks, Bromeliads, Bush muhly, Caribou moss, Cassava, Cotton grass, Cyanobacteria, Desert needle, Eel grass, Epiphyte, Ferns, Fluff grass, Fremont’s pin cushion, Fruit trees – lemon, orange, apple, etc;, Green algae, Green sulfur bacteria

2. Consumers

  • Consumers as biotic factors are organisms that rely on other species for sustenance and energy.
  • They are also known as heterotrophs, as opposed to autotrophs.
  • The term heterotroph is derived from the Greek words “hetero” (meaning “others”) and “troph” (meaning “food”).
  • Heterotrophs obtain their sustenance from plants or other animals, as they are incapable of producing their own food. Humans, for example, cook their food yet are incapable of producing it themselves. We cannot possibly create an onion or potato! For our plant-based diet, we depend on supplies from primary producers. Yes, we can assist them in producing food by giving water, nutrients, and an optimal growing environment, but we cannot “make” crops organically.
  • Animals, bacteria, fungi, and parasitic plants are consumers.

Types of Consumers

There are three categories of consumer biotic factors: primary, secondary, and tertiary. They are not manufacturers.

  • Primary consumers: Herbivorous consumers are known as herbivores and are classified as primary consumers.
  • Secondary consumers: Carnivores are classified as secondary consumers since they feed on herbivores or grass-eating animals. 
  • Tertiary consumers: Tertiary consumers are animals that consume secondary consumers. 
  • Omnivores: Omnivores are consumers that devour both plants and animals, and they may be secondary or tertiary consumers. 

Example: For instance, a rabbit is the major consumer, a snake that eats rabbits is the secondary consumer, and an owl that eats snakes is the tertiary consumer. Herbivore consumers include sheep, goats, zebras, cattle, etc. Carnivore examples include lions, cats, tigers, hyenas, etc. Omnivore examples include people, bears, ravens, etc.


Types of Heterotrophs/Consumers Based on Nutrition

Further classification of heterotrophs includes lithotrophs and organotrophs.

  • Lithoheterotrophs: Lithoheterotrophs get electrons from inorganic food sources like as sulphur, ammonium, etc. 
  • Organotrophs: Organotrophs consume carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins derived from plants and animals.

Based on the energy source


Additionally, consumers are classified based on the energy source they consume.

  • Chemoheterotroph: Chemoheterotrophs obtain their energy needs from chemical compounds (as already described above). Included are humans, animals, and mushrooms as examples.
  • Photoheterotrophs: Some heterotrophs rely on light for energy and are referred to as photoheterotrophs. Green non-sulfur bacteria is one example of this type of organism.

Chemoorganoheterotrophs constitute the majority of heterotrophs. They obtain their carbon from organic carbon and their electrons from organic molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids.


In contrast to autotrophs, which create complex organic substances such as carbohydrates, fats, and lipids, etc., heterotrophs are capable of degrading these compounds. Carbohydrates, for instance, are transformed into glucose, proteins into amino acids, and fats into glycerol and fatty acid. After decomposition, the products are water, carbon dioxide, and energy.

Heterotrophs can utilise fermentation, aerobic respiration, or anaerobic respiration to consume organic molecules. To digest food, mammals, birds, reptiles, and other creatures utilise cellular respiration. Adenosine triphosphate is a chemical molecule that supplies the energy necessary for many cellular functions. In animals with aerobic respiration, the generation of adenosine triphosphate is associated with oxidative phosphorylation (a process in which oxidation and phosphorylation occur simultaneously).


Examples of Consumers

  • Acacia ant, American alligator, Anteater, Arctic bumble bees, Arctic ground squirrel, Arctic hare, Arctic peregrine falcon, Arctic shrews, Arctic wolf, Badger, Barracuda, Bass, Bats – most, Bears – black, American, Asian, grizzly, Kodiak,sun, Polar; Bighorn sheep, Bobcats, Cactus wrens, Canada goose, Caribou, Catfish, Cattle – zebu, taurine, sanga, dwarf lulu, chianina, brown, Swiss Cheetah, Chimpanzee, Chuckwalla, Crab, Colobus monkey, Common kingsnake, Cougar, Coyote, Crocodile, Dall sheep, Desert tortoise, Dingo

3. Decomposers

  • Decomposers, or detritovores, are organisms that derive their energy from the organic molecules of producers and consumers.
  • They are essential to ecosystems because they decompose organic matter from other creatures into simpler forms that can be reused by other organisms.
  • Decomposers consist of soil bacteria, fungi, worms, flies, and other organisms that decompose dead matter or waste products from other organisms.
  • They differ from consumers in that consumers typically consume living organisms.
  • Decomposers, on the other hand, digest waste materials such as decaying fruit and dead animals that may not be of interest to customers.
  • In doing so, they convert these dead organisms into simpler molecules that heterotrophs can use to flourish and provide more energy for the ecosystem as a whole.
  • This is the concept underlying the technique of composting, in which plant and animal waste is piled and decomposers such as bacteria, worms, and flies are allowed to flourish.
  • These decomposers transform the waste products in the compost into nutrient-rich fertiliser for the composter’s garden, which subsequently grows larger and healthier as a result of the decomposers breaking down the waste materials.
  • Decomposers are the link between the base of the energy pyramid in an ecosystem and the other levels.
  • Decomposers can convert the energy and raw materials from deceased plants, herbivores, lesser carnivores, and even top carnivores into a form that can be utilised by the ecosystem’s producers to make it easier for them to absorb sunlight. Thus, the energy cycle of the environment is sustained.

Example of Decomposers

  • Bacteria – streptomyces, penicillum, bacillus, aspergillus; Beach flies, Clams, Cockroaches, Crabs, Earthworms, Flat worms, Flies, Freshwater shrimp, Fungi – mushrooms, Lobsters, Macrofauna, Mesofauna, Microbes, Microfauna, Protozoans, Shelf fungus, Slugs, Snails, Termites, Wasps

Examples of Biotic Factors

Wolves in North America

  • Prior to the arrival of European colonists in North America, wolves were prevalent in many of the continent’s ecosystems. In many regions, these huge carnivores were the top predators, using their size and coordination to take down large prey species.
  • The colonists and their descendants ferociously hunted wolves out of safety concerns, since wolves could consume sheep that farmers relied on for food and could even consume human children.
  • However, the extinction of wolves in North America eventually caused new issues for people. Without their apex predator, deer and other herbivore species experienced phenomenal population growth.
  • Initially, this may have appeared to be advantageous for human hunters who ate deer flesh and sold deer skins, but the situation deteriorated when deer began consuming so many plants that farms, gardens, and wild plant species became endangered. Humans were forced to hunt deer not just for their flesh and hides, but also to prevent severe ecological harm.
  • Until a prohibition on wolf hunting was implemented and wolves produced in captivity were allowed back into the wild to repopulate the wolf population in some areas, humans did not fully appreciate the role of wolves.
  • The regions where wolves were reintroduced saw remarkable changes. Indeed, the decline of deer and other large prey animals led to an increase in the populations of numerous plant species.
  • To the surprise of human scientists researching ecosystems, even land shapes began to alter: it was discovered that deer had been consuming grass and other small plants whose roots prevented soil erosion.
  • As a result of wolves controlling the deer population, plant populations began to recover, erosion lessened, and river routes shifted! A reduction in the amount of soil that washed into the river also had an effect on fish.
  • This is a great example of how complicated and interrelated ecosystems are, and how the removal of a single element, even if its only function is to devour other animals, may have profound effects on all other organisms within the ecosystem.

Cyanobacteria and Life on Earth

  • Scientists believe that cyanobacteria was the first widespread form of life on Earth. These relatively rudimentary cells, which produced food and organic components from sunlight, played a crucial role in the formation of all current ecosystems on Earth.
  • Prior to the success of cyanobacteria, there was no oxygen atmosphere on Earth. Therefore, aerobic respiration was not feasible, and it was impossible or extremely difficult for any organisms to thrive on land due to the sun’s DNA-destroying ultraviolet radiation.
  • However, cyanobacteria have evolved a way to store solar energy in organic molecules. To accomplish this, carbon molecules from inorganic sources, such as carbon dioxide in the air, had to be converted into carbon-based organic substances such as carbohydrates, proteins, and lipids.
  • In order to accomplish this, cyanobacteria ingested the inorganic gas CO2 and expelled a new gas, O2.
  • O2, or molecular oxygen, proved to be the optimal fuel for aerobic respiration, the most potent type of heterotroph metabolism. Additionally, molecules of O2 reacted with ultraviolet light in the high atmosphere to generate O3 – a chemical also known as ozone – which absorbed UV light in the upper atmosphere and made it safe for life to invade land.
  • In the billions of years to come, cyanobacteria will be mostly supplanted by their more evolved progeny, such as trees, grass, and algae, which will assume their position as the planet’s major oxygen generators. However, cyanobacteria persists in blooms that are occasionally visible from space!
  • As biotic factors, cyanobacteria and its modern descendants supplied all Earth’s ecosystems with energy, organic molecules, and oxygen!


  • In 2016, biologists from around the world declared that the Earth has entered the Anthropocene geologic era.
  • “Anthropocene” is derived from the Greek words “anthropo” for “human” and “cene” for “new” or “recent.”
  • This era is characterised by the effects of human technology, which have caused massive changes to the global ecosystem comparable to those caused by previous major climate change events and even asteroid impacts.
  • The carbon cycle on Earth has been drastically altered by human activity, with the combustion of wood, coal, and oil releasing millions of years’ worth of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere in just a few centuries.
  • Approximately fifty percent of the world’s forests, which had previously acted to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and incorporate it back into plant life, have been cut down by humans over the same time period.
  • In addition, humans have begun releasing many non-natural substances into the Earth’s land, air, and oceans, such as plastics, heavy metals, and radioactive materials.
  • The result has been the start of alarmingly rapid climate change and a mass extinction, in which species are disappearing faster than they have since the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and paved the way for the rise of mammals.
  • Humans are therefore possibly the most potent example of how living organisms can alter an ecosystem since cyanobacteria.
  • This has prompted some environmentalists to assert that humans are “evil” and “harmful to the planet.” In reality, though, the planet always overcomes ecological crises. It is only a matter of whether the species that exist at the beginning of their existence survive to the end.
  • According to numerous scientists, humans should thus be concerned about their impact on the earth. Not because altering the planet is inherently immoral, but because humans depend on the intricate ecological interaction of thousands of species for sustenance.
  • Scientists are beginning to sound the alarm that the pollinators on which many human food crops rely appear to be dying out as a result of the new chemicals humans have released into the environment.
  • Climate change caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide is also a threat to human food crops, as it has brought severe drought to many areas with dense human populations that require large quantities of food to survive.
  • Furthermore, medical scientists warn that dangerous insect-borne diseases that were once confined to regions near the equator are now spreading to new regions.
  • As the dominant species on Earth, it is essential for humans to learn about the ecosystems on which they depend for their survival and well-being. We have the ability to significantly alter these ecosystems, and as living beings who depend on other life forms for our own survival, we may unwittingly set in motion events that could lead to our own extinction.

Benefits of Learning the Biotic Factors

The biotic factors – introduction, examples, and three major groups – will unquestionably serve as a valuable educational resource for you. To pass the final exam in biology, you will need reliable study materials. With this article, you’ll be able to study key concepts and earn high marks on your final exam. This topic provides a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem and the factors that influence it. Here are a few advantages:

  • The biotic factors – introduction, examples, and three major groups provide a comprehensive explanation of all chapter-related topics.
  • It facilitates comprehension of even the most complex concepts.
  • The topic’s notes were compiled by the top subject matter experts, who laboured for days to provide you with a reliable and accurate study resource.
  • Once you have mastered the “biotic factors,” you will not need to review the chapter again in preparation for the exam.
  • You can learn more about ecosystems, living organisms, abiotic factors, and much more by studying this topic.
  • It is heavily weighted on the examination. Therefore, the biotic factors – introduction, examples, and three major groups – will assist you in understanding the concept and earning higher grades. 

What happens when Abiotic and Biotic factors interact?

  • As significant as biotic factors are in the life cycle, they are just as susceptible to abiotic factors.
  • The influence of weather on the behaviour of living organisms is one example.
  • This is illustrated by the birds that migrate south during the winter months in the Northern Hemisphere.
  • Unfortunately, humans can contribute to the negative influence of abiotic factors on the biotic ecosystem, such as the pollution of rivers and the impact of climate change on the Coral reef.

Things to Remember

  • Biotic Factors are the organisms that create, construct, and mould the environment.
  • It consists of all living organisms that rely on one another for survival.
  • Important elements of a balanced Ecosystem are the interaction, cooperation, and competition between these organisms.
  • Producing, consuming, and decomposing are the three types of Biotic Factors.
  • Food is produced by producers for themselves and the entire ecosystem.
  • Consumers eat other living organisms for sustenance. Herbivores, carnivores, and omnivores are among the possible types of consumers.
  • Herbivores are animals that eat vegetation and trees.
  • Herbivorous organisms are known as carnivores.
  • Omnivores are animals that consume both herbivores and carnivores for food.
  • Decomposers feed on consumers and producers and transform waste materials into simpler substances.
  • Biotic factors include, among others, green plants, trees, all animals, all humans, microorganisms, etc.


What are the examples of Biotic components in the Marine Ecosystem?

  • Algae
  • Plankton
  • Bacteria
  • Plants
  • Corals
  • Fish
  • Sharks
  • Jellyfish

What are the examples of Biotic components in the Terrestrial Ecosystem?

  • Trees
  • Green Plants
  • Soil Bacteria
  • Fungi
  • Mushrooms
  • Herbs
  • Shrubs
  • All animals
  • All Human beings



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