Decomposer vs. Detritivore

Difference Between Decomposer and Detritivore

The Decomposer and Detritivore are living organisms in ecosystems. Our ecosystem is composed of all living organisms with non-living things. This ecosystem and includes all plants, animals, microorganisms, soil, rocks, minerals with water and the atmosphere. There are different ecosystems in the world that are composed of a community of living creatures with non living things. There are wide variations in the size of these ecosystems. From an ecosystem that is as small as a puddle of water to a large rain forest that can be larger than some countries, there are countless ecosystems around the world. In a sense, the body of any animal is in itself an ecosystem as it is home to countless microorganisms. The decomposers and detritivores are living organisms in many ecosystems. There are many similarities in the features and functions of these two organizations but this article intends to highlight the difference between a Decomposer and a Detritivore to make the readers aware of these organisms.

Agent decomposition

As the name implies, these are organizations that help in the decomposition of bodies of organisms that are already dead or dying. In the food chain, these organisms occupy a very modest position after the carnivores that eat other animals and omnivores that consume both plants and other organisms for food. But the agents of decomposition are important in the food web and are intrinsic. Bacteria and fungi are examples of decomposers that feed on the dead and rotting matter and they get their energy from dead organisms except animal and plant waste products.


Detritivores perform the same function as the decomposers. They feed on dead plant and animal matter, but perform an additional function which is essential to give back the essential nutrients to the ecosystem in the process. Thus they become an important part of the ecosystem in which they live. They can live in soil as well as marine ecosystems. Examples of detritivores are worms, millipedes, sea stars, crabs and dung flies.

The difference between Decomposer and Detritivore

It is thus clear that both detritivores and decomposers help in the decomposition of dead or decaying matter. Decomposition is a chemical reaction where a complex compound is broken down into simpler compounds. Detritivores help in the production of essential nutrients. Worms are also called as scavengers as they finish the skin of an apple leaving the interior of the fruit for other decomposers. Both decomposers and detritivores receive energy from decayed matters, but whereas detritivores in fact eat the organic matter, the decomposers secrete enzymes to digest organic matter and then absorb the ensuing molecules.

The word Detritivore actually comes from the word detritus that refers to non-living plant and animal remains, parts that are shed (the skin, antlers) and waste. Scavengers consume this garbage to get energy. The decomposers are a special subset of detritivores that break the organic compounds in inorganic form and then they absorb whatever they need for nutrition.


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