Key Difference – Saprophytes vs Parasites
Organisms show a variety of nutritional requirements for survival. Some organisms depend on other living organisms for their nourishment while others depend on dead materials. Saprophytes and parasites are two types of organisms which have two different modes of obtaining nutrition. The key difference between saprophytes and parasites is that saprophytic organisms obtain nutrients from dead and decaying organic matter while parasitic organisms fulfill their nutritional requirements from another living organism. Saprophytes are considered as an integral part of the ecosystem since they decompose dead organic materials accumulated in the environment and help nutrient recycling.
What are Saprophytes?
Some organisms absorb nutrients from dead plant and animal materials in the environments. They are known as saprophytes. They secrete extracellular enzymes and degrade organic materials into simple compounds. Hence, they are very important for removing or recycling dead materials in the environment. Saprophytes play an important role in almost all the biogeochemical cycles such as nitrogen cycle, carbon cycle, hydrogen cycle, and mineral cycles.
Most fungal species are saprophytes. They grow on dead organic materials and absorb necessary nutrients while decomposing it. Certain plants are also saprophytes. These plants live on the decaying plant and animal residues and absorb nutrients without carrying out photosynthesis. There are also soil bacterial species which are saprophytes.
Saprophytes act as the primary recyclers of the environment. During the decomposition of organic materials, many nutrients are returned back to the soil by saprophytes for the usage of plants and other living organisms.
What are Parasites?
Some organisms live on or within another living organism and obtain nutrients from them. They are known as parasites and the organism which supplies nutrients is known as the host organism. Parasites feed only on living organisms for their nourishments. Hence, the host organism is affected by the parasitic organism. There are parasitic plants and animals which depend on other living organisms. Dodder plants are popular as parasites and they do not contain chlorophyll to carry out photosynthesis. These plants grown on other plants and absorb nutrients through the penetration into their stems via suckers.
Several human diseases are caused by parasites. For example, Malaria is caused by a parasite called Plasmodium. Certain parasitic protozoans and helminths also cause significant intestinal infections in humans.
What is the difference between Saprophytes and Parasites?
Saprophytes vs Parasites
|Organisms which depend on dead and decaying organic material for their nourishment are known as saprophytes.||Organisms which depend on living organisms for their nutritional requirement are known as parasites.|
|Saprophytes secrete enzymes and degrade organic matter to absorb nutrients.||Parasites develop haustoria to absorb nutrients from the host organism.|
|Saprophytes do not harm living organisms. They are important for soil health since they are nutrient recyclers.||Parasites harm the host organism.|
|Saprophytes show extracellular digestion.||Parasites show intracellular digestion.|
|Feeding on Living Organisms|
|Saprophytes do not feed on living organisms.||Parasites feed on living organisms.|
|Mushrooms (fungi) are examples.||Plasmodium, Cuscuta are examples.|
Summary – Saprophytes vs Parasites
Saprophytic organisms live on dead organic matter and fulfill their nutritional requirement by decomposing organic materials. They are considered as primary decomposers in the environment. They help in almost all the nutrient cycles by degrading complex organic materials into simple compounds which can be readily absorbed by plants and other living organisms. Parasites are the organisms which live on or within another living organism and obtain nutrients from them. Parasites are unable to make their own foods. Hence, they feed on living organisms for their nourishment. Parasites are not beneficial since they often harm their host during the feeding process. Parasites depend on host for the survival. Thus, the main differences between saprophytes and parasites is the way they fulfill their nutritional requirement.
1. Carroll, Jackie. “Saprophyte Information – Learn About Saprophyte Organisms And Plants.” Gardening Know How. N.p., 02 May 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2017
2. Nordqvist, Christian. “What is a Parasite? What do Parasites do?” Medical News Today. MediLexicon International, n.d. Web. 17 Apr. 2017
1. “Cuscuta sandwichensis (kaunaoa) infesting beach morning-glory (Ipomoea pes-caprae subsp. brasiliensis)” by Scot Nelson (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
2. “Mycena interrupta” By JJ Harrison ([email protected]) – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia