Detritivore Definition

A detritivore is a heterotrophic organism, which obtains that nutrition through feeding on detritus. Detritus is the organic matter comprised of dead plant and also animal material. Detritivores may likewise obtain nutrition by coprophagy, i m sorry is a feeding strategy involving the intake of feces.

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Detritivores are often invertebrate insects such as mites, beetles, butterflies and flies; mollusks such as slugs and snails; or soil-dwelling earthworms, millipedes and also woodlice.

Examples that detritivores in marine environments are crustaceans such together crabs and lobsters, echinoderms such together sea stars or sea cucumbers. Plenty of of these naval detritivores accounting a similar niche to terrestrial soil-dwellers, living on or in ~ the seabed well-known as the benthos. This organisms space often dubbed “bottom-feeders”. Conversely in aquatic ecosystems, stationary polychaete worms, barnacles and some corals have their power through filter feeding on floating necessary detritus called ”marine snow”.

The terms “detritivore” and “decomposer” are distinct in your meaning; although the indigenous are often used interchangeably, detritivores room technically a branch that decomposers. The is beneficial to keep in mind that, unlike detritivores, true decomposers such together fungi, bacteria or protists, use saprotrophic feeding, in which lock absorb nutrients through extracellular digestion, fairly than by dental ingestion. Similarity can but be drawn in between detritivores and also scavengers. Yet while both of these feeding tactics involve the consumption of dead plant and also animal matter, scavengers often tend to feed on a larger scale than detritivores, specializing on carrion and also feces.

Function the Detritivores

Detritivores and also decomposers contribute to the break down of every one of the dead and decaying product in any type of ecosystem. In this method they play an essential role in the cycling of nutrients and also are vital part of many biogeochemical cycles, such as the carbon cycle, nitrogen cycle and also the phosphorus cycle.

Detritivores feed on product from primary producers and herbivores and carnivores, and thus are existing throughout every trophic levels in an ecosystem. And also consuming energy from other organisms, detritivores are typically eaten by secondary consumers, and also so they room an integral component of the ecosystem energy cycle.


Not just is the recycling process an important part of decomposition, the removal of dead product is necessary to prevent the spread out of disease. Additionally, detritivores that live within the soil, e.g. Earthworms, aerate and mix increase the soil v their movement, which is vital for the expansion of plants.

The Decomposition Cycle

Detritus is consisted of of Particulate Organic product (POM) that is developed from tissues deposited when plants and also animals dice or when they burned skin or antlers through molting, and fecal matter and microorganisms. The colonies of microorganisms within the detritus include to its nutritional value. In terrestrial environments, detritus may be present as humus (the dead products mixed through soils), or together leaf litter. In aquatic environments, the detritus is suspended together “marine snow”, which at some point falls come the seabed.

All the this material contains energy, as well as the nutrients that were present in the rubbish material and the bodies of the deceased. These substances are valuable commodities in all energy and also nutrient cycles, although the minerals and compounds have to be made available by physical breakdown and biochemical change of the product through decomposition or remineralisation.

Detritivores feed on the larger particulate product in the at an early stage stages that decomposition, and in doing so, fragment the material in to smaller sized pieces. The fragmentation process increases the surface ar area available, for assault by bacteria and other microorganisms, and thus assists and increases the decomposition process.

Digestion by the detritivores additionally breaks under some carbohydrates, proteins and lipids current in the detritus in to less complicated substances. The water-soluble nutrients developed from this leach into the soil and increase the soil mineral content. In ~ the very same time, the detritivores space extracting nutrition for their own life cycles, and also in law so, contribute their biomass to the food chain as soon as they are eaten by consumers.

Continuously throughout the process, decomposers such as fungi and other microorganisms, also known together saprophytes, carry out true decomposition, using chemical compounds and also digestive enzymes to transform material excreted by the detritivores right into further simpler substances such as inorganic carbon.

These cyclic building material are important to every life, for example, inorganic carbon exit from respiration that decomposers is bring away in by plants and is used to execute photosynthesis.

Successive decomposition that the modified organic issue results in humification – the formation of humus – a kind of soil with a high mineral content and stability.

Nutrient cycle

Examples of Detritivore


Worms are among the most vital soil-dwelling detritivores. They consume a huge amount of necessary matter and soil and are current throughout all layers of your substrate. Epigeic worms live on the surface, if endogeic worms live in the top layer that soil. This two species of worm tend to feed on dead grass, collapse leaves and other bioorganic materials such as fungi, algae and also the microorganisms the are also feeding on this substances.

Anecic worms live deep within the soil, generally consisting off raw soil, back this has many bacteria, fungi and algae.

Worms take in food through their mouths, and ‘suck’ it right into the digestive device using a muscular action. As the product passes through their digestive system right into their ‘gizzard’, that is topic to digestive enzymes as well as the grinding action resulting native the existence of grit and sand from the soil.

A ‘cast’ is passed the end of the rear end of the worm. The actors is basically a more processed version of the entry soil, with smaller sized nutrient particles available for decomposition by other organisms. The presence of the microorganisms in ~ the detritus consumed by the worms also increases the decomposition process throughout digestion. Because of their feeding strategy, worms are constantly top top the move. This motion helps to mix up and aerate the soil, which likewise improves water uptake and also transportation that nutrients, enabling plants to grow more efficiently.


Springtails space wingless arthropods, i m sorry live mainly as detritivores. Castle are many often uncovered living within sheet litter and also other habitats wherein decaying material is present, such as moss, grass, and dead wood.

Most springtails are vegetarian, feeding ~ above fungal mycelium, vegetation, lichens, pollen and algae although some types have been found to feed on decaying pet matter such as dead earthworms and also flies.

They are highly adaptable, through a fast reproduction rate and also a varied habitat and also diet range, castle colonize in big numbers and are one of the most numerous macroscopic animals; a solitary square meter that soil deserve to contain approximately 100,000 springtails! They have the right to withstand a variety of temperature from warm habitats come frozen snow, yet they room generally delicate to desiccation and also so opt because that moist environments.

The picture shows springtail species, Sminthurides aquaticus, feeding top top a piece of dead wood.

Benefits of Springtails

Springtails have actually a large effect top top the price of detritus decomposition, and studies have found that the removed of springtails substantially reduces the rate of leaf litter decomposition.

They are important for controlling fungal disease, together they consume spores and mycelium they may remove pathogens.

They can likewise be provided for trial and error the toxicology that soil. They are highly sensitive to pollutants and so they deserve to be supplied as bio-indicators of floor quality.

Related biological Terms

Decomposer – one organism, which breaks under organic substances, generally into not natural substances and also nutrients. Nutrient Cycle – The motion or exchange that organic and inorganic issue throughout biogeochemical cycles right into living matter.


1. I beg your pardon of the complying with is an example of a detritivore? A. Deer B. fungi C. Cockroach D. Bacteria

C is correct. Back cockroaches are typically omnivorous, lock consume detritus and assist to failure materials because that the decomposition process.

2. What is the main difference between detritivores and decomposers? A. Decomposers space all vegetarian while detritivores are not B. They failure different compound nutrients C. Detritivores use inner digestion while decomposers usage extracellular digestion D. Detritivores are larger than decomposers

C is correct. Detritivores entry dead plant and animal material and break it down using interior digestion to minimize particle size and also decomposers usage excretive enzymes through saprotrophic feeding to failure organic matter. No all detritivores are larger; while plenty of decomposers are microorganisms, many are likewise fungi, which have the right to be massive in size.

3. I m sorry of the complying with services go an Earthworm not add to an ecosystem? A. Contributing to floor humification B. populace control the insects v predation C. soil aeration D.

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Providing energy as a food resource for other organisms

B is correct. Typical earthworms room non-predatory, consuming only soil, detritus and microorganisms. They are useful to soil quality in plenty of other ways.