The key difference between scavenger and decomposer is that the scavenger is an organism which feeds on dead plants, animals or carrion and breaks down them into smaller pieces while the decomposer is an organism which decays the small pieces of organic matter left by the scavengers.
Producers, consumers, and decomposers are the three most important components in an ecosystem. However, another type of organisms called scavengers start the decomposing process and facilitate the real decomposing process. Hence, they are essential components of any ecosystem in the recycling of resources. In simple terms, the world would be an unpleasant garbage dump without scavengers and decomposers. They clean all the leftover materials in ecosystems. However, though the scavengers and decomposers mainly function as cleaners, their respective roles are different. In this article, we will be discussing the difference between scavenger and decomposer in detail.
1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is a Scavenger
3. What is a Decomposer
4. Similarities Between Scavenger and Decomposer
5. Side by Side Comparison – Scavenger vs Decomposer in Tabular Form
What is a Scavenger?
Scavenging is a type of feeding behaviour in which an animal feeds on either a dead animal or dead plant matter. Scavengers are the animals that show scavenging habits. Scavengers’ role is vital for the functioning of an ecosystem as they contribute to the decomposition by giving a start to it. Then after words, decomposers and detritus feeders complete the decomposition process.
Moreover, scavengers do not spend energy to kill their prey, but they sense the smell of food on which they can feed. Vultures, burying beetle, racoons, jackals, and hyenas are some prime examples of animal scavengers. Termites and earthworms are good examples of plant scavengers. While the scavengers act on the dead animals and plants, they break them into small pieces of organic materials. Thus, scavengers start the decomposing process. Also, big helpers for the decomposition process are the scavengers, while detritus feeders are the small helpers.
What is a Decomposer?
Decomposition is a process that small organisms act on dead plants and animals biomass to convert those into molecular levels. Accordingly, decomposers are the organisms that contribute to the decomposition process. Fungi are the primary decomposers in a forest, while bacteria are also good examples.
They are microscopic more often than not. However, the dead matter has to be exposed for bacteria to be able to act upon, while fungi can decompose any dead biomass because of their penetrability. Apart from that, enzymes to decompose lignin in wood are present only in fungi. Decomposers release the organic and inorganic molecules in the form of nutrients for the plants and animals. Thus, this process is vital for the recycling of the resources inside an ecosystem.
What are the Similarities Between Scavenger and Decomposer?
- Both scavenger and decomposer are integral parts of an ecosystem.
- Also, they are responsible for the decomposition of organic matter accumulated in the environment.
- Wherein, scavengers start the decomposing process, while decomposers finish it.
- Furthermore, they help to recycle nutrients in the environment.
What is the Difference Between Scavenger and Decomposer?
Scavenger and decomposer are two types of organisms that are important for the functioning of an ecosystem. Scavengers are the animals that feed on dead plants, animals and carrion and break down them into small pieces. On the other hand, decomposers are the organisms that decompose the organic matter broken down by the scavengers. Therefore, this is the key difference between scavengers and decomposers. Besides, the scavengers are large animals, but decomposers are more often microorganisms. However, fungi come in different sizes. So, this is another difference between scavenger and decomposer.
Furthermore, scavengers can break down large dead bodies into small pieces while decomposers can break down small pieces of dead material into molecular levels. Thus, this is also a difference between scavenger and decomposer. Scavengers include animals such as birds, vultures, burying beetle, racoons, jackals, and hyenas, etc., while decomposers include earthworms, fungi and bacteria. Another difference between scavenger and decomposer is that scavenger initiates the decomposition by exposing interior matter to the outside by removing the skin, keratin layers, and scales of animals and barks of plants while decomposer completes it.
Summary – Scavenger vs Decomposer
Scavenger and decomposer are two types of organisms found in the environment. Both are important for the functioning of an ecosystem. Scavenger is an animal that feeds on and breaks down dead animals, plants and carrion into smaller pieces. On the other hand, decomposer is an organism that breaks down small pieces of organic matter into much smaller molecules. Therefore, this is the key difference between scavenger and decomposer.
Furthermore, scavenger starts the decomposition process and decomposer depends on the broken down materials of scavengers and completes the decomposition process. Thus, both scavenger and decomposer fulfil a great job in the environment by performing the decomposition and nutrient recycling. Hence, this summarizes the difference between scavenger and decomposer.
1. Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. “Scavenger.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 3 Dec. 2015. Available here
2. Editors. “Decomposer – Definition, Function and Examples.” Biology Dictionary, Biology Dictionary, 28 Apr. 2017. Available here