The key difference between decomposer and detritivore is that the decomposer is a saprophytic organism which decomposes and recycles dead organic matter in the environment while detritivore is a type of decomposer which consumes decaying organic matter and digests within its body in order to break down and obtain nutrients.
An ecosystem consists of all the living organisms along with non-living things. This ecosystem thus includes all plants, animals, microorganisms, soils, rocks, minerals along with water and atmosphere. There is great variation in the size of these ecosystems. From as small an ecosystem as a puddle of water to a large rainforest that may be larger than some countries of the world, there are countless ecosystems in the world. In a sense, the body of any animal in itself is an ecosystem as it is home to countless microorganisms. Decomposers and detritivores are essential living organisms in many ecosystems. They carry out decomposition of dead organic matter in the environment which is an important process that allows the recycling of nutrients. These two groups of organisms share many similar characteristics and functions, but this article intends to highlight the difference between decomposer and detritivore for the ease of differentiation.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is a Decomposer
3. What is a Detritivore
4. Similarities Between Decomposer and Detritivore
5. Side by Side Comparison – Decomposer vs Detritivore in Tabular Form
What is a Decomposer?
As the name implies, decomposer is an organism that aids in the decomposition of already dead or dying organisms including mainly plants and animals. In the food chain, these organisms occupy a very lowly place often the last stop after carnivores that eat other animals and omnivores that consume both plants and animals for food. But decomposers play an important role in the food web and are integral parts of it.
Bacteria and fungi are good examples of decomposers that feed on dead and decaying organic matter. They carry out decomposition by secreting extracellular enzymes on the dead organic matter, and once they digest, they absorb nutrients. Hence they show heterotrophic nutrition. Though these organisms decompose dead organic matter to obtain energy for the survival, indirectly they help to maintain and sustain the ecosystem. As long as, decomposers perform their jobs, the dead plant and animal organic matter will not accumulate in the environment. Otherwise, it will lead to a huge environmental problem.
What is a Detritivore?
Detritivore is an organism which performs the same function as that of a decomposer. They feed on dead plant and animal matter and then digest them within their bodies in order to gain nutrients and energy. In simple words, unlike decomposers, they consume decomposing organic matter including faecal matter to obtain nutrients. Hence, they contribute with the decomposition as well as with the nutrient recycling.
Likewise, they also play a crucial role in all ecosystems by removing the decaying organic matter and aiding the cleaning process. Detritivores live in all types of habitats including the soils as well as the marine ecosystems. Some examples of detritivores are earthworms, millipedes, sea stars, crabs and dung flies.
What are the Similarities Between Decomposer and Detritivore?
- Both decomposer and detritivore are important organisms in the ecosystems.
- They are both heterotrophs.
- Also, both involve with the decomposition of dead plant and animal organic matter.
- Hence, they aid in nutrient recycling within the ecosystems.
- Furthermore, they both occupy a lower level in the food chains.
What is the Difference Between Decomposer and Detritivore?
Decomposer is an organism which breaks down dead organic matter. Hence, they are the natures’ recyclers. They aid in the recycling of nutrients through ecosystems. Bacteria and fungi are the most prominent decomposers in the environment. Similarly, detritivores are also involved with the decomposition of the dead organic matter. However, they do it in a different way. They ingest dead material and digest within their bodies to obtain nutrients. So detritivore does internal digestion while decomposer does external digestion. This is the key difference between decomposer and detritivore.
Summary – Decomposer vs Detritivore
Decomposition is mainly carried out by microorganisms which we refer as decomposers. They decompose all these accumulating dead organic matters in the environment. Bacteria and fungi are the popular decomposers in the environment. They secrete enzymes and perform extracellular digestion and then absorb nutrients. By their decomposition process, ecosystems get benefitted in many ways, especially in nutrient recycling. Similar to decomposers, detritivores are also involved with the decomposition. They eat decaying organic matter and digest within their bodies in order to obtain nutrients. Organisms such as earthworms, woodlice, sea stars, slugs, and fiddler crabs are good examples of detritivores. This is the difference between decomposer and detritivore.