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Difference Between Detritivores and Decomposers

Detritivores vs Decomposers

Many people are confused on the specifications of decomposers and detritivores. Even if both the decomposers and detritivores feed on the same diet, it does not necessarily mean that they are of the same species. Both the detritivores and decomposers might also be heterotrophic, but that does not simply conclude that both of them are the same. Although they might have the same diet, there are certain distinguishable differences between decomposers and detritivores.

Basically, the term “decomposer” is a general term for organisms that break down deceased or rotting organisms. The decomposers are responsible for the decomposing process of a deceased organism. Decomposers are heterotrophic which means that they utilize organic substrates as a source of energy, carbon, and essential nutrients for their development and growth. On the other hand, the detritivores may also be considered heterotrophic. However, detritivores are actually a classification of decomposers. Detritivores are somewhat a branch of decomposers. The decomposers can either be classified into two group: fungi and detritivores.

The most commonly considered decomposers, which are fungi, break down deceased organisms. They are the initial instigators of decomposition. They use chemical compounds to consume the deceased organism. They use powerful enzymes to break down the components of the deceased organism and convert them to simpler substances. This is where the detritivores come into play. Although detritivores are not actually part of the process of decomposition, they contribute primarily in the process. The detritivores are responsible for consuming large particles of the deceased organisms. By this action, the deceased organism is then more exposed to decomposers as portions of the organism would be exposed to the decomposers as detritivores eat away from the dead organism. As aforementioned, the decomposers are responsible for breaking down the components of the carcass into simpler substances. The detritivores then scavenge on the remains that the decomposers leave. These substances are decomposing organic matter called detritus.

While the decomposers break down the organic material from the decaying organism, the detritivores in the meanwhile recycle the decomposing organic material. Another difference between the decomposers and the detritivores is that most decomposers are in the forms of bacteria or fungus whereas the detritivores come in different forms, namely; worms, millipedes, woodlice, dung flies, and slugs in the terrestrial aspect while there are detritivores in the water as well.

Although there are differences between the decomposers and the detritivores, these organisms still co-exist. Each organism needs each other to survive. The decomposers and the detritivores also play a major role in the life cycle in the ecosystem. There should always be decomposers and detritivores in the ecosystem since they are responsible for breaking down decaying substances thus fertilizing the soil where the plants normally grow.


1.“Decomposer” is a general term while detritivores are one of the classifications of decomposers.

2.Decomposers break down the dead organisms through decomposition while the detritivores consume the decaying organisms.

3.Most decomposers are in the forms of bacteria or fungus whereas the detritivores come in different forms, namely; worms, millipedes, woodlice, dung flies, and slugs in the terrestrial aspect.

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  1. If detritivores scavage dead flesh, does that also mean we can consider them as sacvagers?

  2. But they don’t do so,if they scavage dead bodies really they would be called so

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