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Osmotrophy is a feeding mechanism involving the movement of dissolved organic compounds by osmosis for nutrition. Organisms that use osmotrophy are called osmotrophs. Some mixotrophic microorganisms use osmotrophy to derive some of their energy. Osmotrophy is used by a diversity of organisms.[1] Organisms that use osmotrophy include bacteria, many species of protists and most fungi. Some macroscopic animals like molluscs, sponges, corals, brachiopods and echinoderms may use osmotrophic feeding as a supplemental food source.


Osmotrophy as a means of gathering nutrients in microscopic organisms relies on cellular surface area to ensure that proper diffusion of nutrients occur in the cell.[2] In other words, an osmotroph is an organism that has their "stomach" outside of their body. Sometimes, osmotrophs may still have an internal digestive system in addition to still using osmosis as a way to gain supplemental nutrients. Additionally, when organisms increase in size, the surface area per volume ratio drops and osmotrophy becomes insufficient to meet nutrient demands. Larger macroscopic organisms that rely on osmotrophy can compensate for a reduced surface area per volume ratio with a very flat, thin body. A tapeworm is an example of such adaptation.

In stagnant waters photoautotrophs have a relative advantage over heterotrophic osmotrophs since the flux of photons as an energy source are not hindered at low temperatures, thus it depends on diffusion for mass acquisition through Brownian diffusion.

Osmotrophy differs from other cellular feeding mechanisms, but can also be found in a diversity of organisms. This allows for organisms to use osmosis in different environments. [2]

Fungi [1][edit]

Fungi are a major group of osmotrophic organisms since Fungi degrade biomass.

Fungi are the biggest osmotrophic specialist since they are major degraders in all ecosystems. For organisms like fungi, osmotrophy facilitates the decomposition process. This is a result of the Osmotrophy resulting in metabolites that continue growth.


  1. ^ a b Richards TA, Talbot NJ (October 2018). "Osmotrophy". Current Biology. 28 (20): R1179–R1180. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2018.07.069. PMID 30352181.
  2. ^ a b Laflamme M, Xiao S, Kowalewski M (August 2009). "From the Cover: Osmotrophy in modular Ediacara organisms". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 106 (34): 14438–43. Bibcode:2009PNAS..10614438L. doi:10.1073/pnas.0904836106. PMC 2732876. PMID 19706530.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jumars PA (2005). "Foraging Theory for Osmotrophs". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  • Jumars PA, Deming JW, Hill PH, Karp-Boss L, Yager PL, Dade WB (1993). "Physical constraints on marine osmotrophy in an optimal foraging context". Marine Microbial Food Webs. 7 (2): 121–159.
  • McMenamin M (1993). "Osmotrophy in fossil protoctists and early animals". Invertebr. Repro. Develop. 23 (2–3): 165–166. doi:10.1080/07924259.1993.9672308.
  • Duvert M, Gourdoux L, Moreau R (2000). "Cytochemical And Physiological Studies Of The Energetic Metabolism And Osmotrophy In Sagitta Friderici (Chaetognath)". Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. 80:5 (5): 885–890. doi:10.1017/s0025315400002861. S2CID 86475776.

See also[edit]