Decomposer n., plural: decomposers <ˌdiːkəmˈpəʊzə> Definition: organisms that carry out decomposition as it feeds on disc organisms and recycles nutrients

Decomposer Definition

The biology that bring out the procedure of decay or malfunction of the dead organism are known as decomposers and the procedure of break down facility organic matter into its simpler form is described as decomposition. In environmental science or ecology, decomposers space the organisms the are associated in the process of decomposition of the dead, both animal and plant matter, in the ecosystem.

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Decomposer (biology definition): An organism who ecological function involves the recycling of nutrient by performing the natural procedure of decomposition as it feeds on disk organisms.

What space the instances of decomposers? significant decomposers in the ecosystem incorporate bacteria and fungi. One would wonder what carry out these decomposers eat. Well, decomposers feeding upon the dead matter.

So, what do these decomposers do, and why space decomposers important? this organisms room the an essential component of the food chain in the ecosystem responsible for the breaking down of the organic and nutrient matter of the dead, for this reason recycling the organic matter and make it accessible to the ecosystem. This organic and also nutrient matter is absorbed or taken up by the tree or the producers of the ecosystem, and, thus, this essential components re-enter the food cycle. This is just how decomposers connect with the ecosystem. Decomposers occupy the lowest most position in the eco-friendly pyramid, however, they form the vital base because that the life in the ladder above them. The decomposers room heterotrophic as they have the energy for your survival from the dead matter.

Decomposers are the saprophytes, i.e., organisms that obtain their nourishment native feeding top top the dead or decaying matter that is organic in nature (‘sapro’ means “rotten material” when ‘phyte’ means “plant”).

Saprophytes or decomposers room the most essential component because that the floor ecology together they feed upon the dead mass, i beg your pardon in the process gets damaged down into crucial molecular elements like carbon, calcium, nitrogen, etc., and also becomes available in the soil for plants. Saprophytes carry out the digestion procedure externally, i.e., external their body. Saprophytes secrete digestive enzymes to breakdown the organic dead mass and convert them into less complicated substances. Because that example, proteins are damaged down by saprophytes right into amino acids, carbohydrate into straightforward sugars, and fats/lipids right into fatty acids and also glycerol. Fungi and bacteria are the typical saprophytes that survive on saprophytic nutrition. The optimum condition for the survival and also growth of saprophytes consists of the visibility of oxygen, high humidity/moisture, neutral or acidic pH, and temperature in the variety of 1 come 35 °C (25 °C being optimum). Yeast, mucor, and Penicillium are examples of saprophytic organisms. This saprophytes have specific common features:

have filaments lack of leaves, roots, and also stem. Heterotrophic in nature together it cannot carry out photosynthesis create spores

Importance or the function of Decomposers

The primary function of the decomposers is to carry out the fragmentation or decomposition process of the dead organisms.

Ecological cleansers and also balance providers

Decomposers space the environmental cleansers that disintegrate the dead, plants as well as animals. Through decomposing the dead, decomposers also assist to produce a biosphere for the brand-new life. Thus, decomposers beat a vital role in developing a balance in the ecosystem.

Recycling of nutrients

Decomposers disintegrate the dead matter into basic components favor carbon, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, etc., thus, do these primary crucial elements obtainable in the environment to it is in taken increase by the plants, thus, recycling the nutrients. They can be absorbed by the producers (e.g. Plants and algae) the the food cycle. Decomposers administer the essential nutrients that are compelled for the survive of ‘producers’ in the food chain. Despite decomposer occupies the lowermost place in the food web, they room the most an important component that the food web. Come understand how decomposers communicate in their ecosystem in terms of the food chain and food web, to express to number 1 and also the video below.

Figure 1: Representative illustrations of the food chain contents (and the energy flow). Source: Maria Victoria Gonzaga the sdrta.net

3 significant groups the organisms based upon feeding mode: A food chain is comprised of trophic levels. Each trophic level in a food chain (or an environmental pyramid) is lived in by a team of biology that have actually a comparable feeding mode. There space three basic groups that living points classified based upon feeding modes. These space producers, consumers, and also decomposers. Producers room the people that attain nourishment directly from inorganic sources. Consumers are the ones that feed on essential matter. Decomposers space those that malfunction dead organic material and also wastes.

Types of decomposers

Basically, there room four species of decomposers, namely fungi, insects, earthworms, and also bacteria.


Fungi space heterotrophs. They perform not bring out photosynthesis and are the primary decomposers in the ecosystem. Algae, i beg your pardon are another group of organisms, space not decomposers; in fact, algae room producers as they possess photosynthetic pigments that allow them to carry out photosynthesis. For this reason while algae space the producer of a food chain, the fungi take the function of the decomposers. And since mushrooms space a kind of fungi they are related to as decomposers as well. This, thereby, answer these usual questions — “are mushroom decomposers?” or “are birds decomposers?” or “are mushrooms decomposers?”

Fungi are the decomposers that disintegrate the litter through pre-digesting, i.e., releasing enzyme in the atmosphere to breakdown the litter.The enzymatic secretion by the fungi breaks down the dead issue in the process of digesting it, i beg your pardon is at some point taken up or absorbed by the fungi itself.Since fungi decompose the dead matter and draw the nutrients from it, they are also classified together saprotrophs.High humidity is a need to for the growth and also survival that the fungi and additionally for the procedure of decomposition.

Fungi (biology definition): (singular, “fungus”) members the Kingdom Fungi, such as rusts, smuts, yeasts, mildews, molds, and mushrooms. They are eukaryotic organisms. They are defined by the visibility of chitin in the cell wall surface as protest to the cell wall of plants and also some bacteria, which space largely made up of cellulose and also peptidoglycan, respectively.


Flies, dung beetles, maggots, and also ants room the insects that aid in moving out the process of decomposition in the ecology.Insects fall under the category of detritivores as they carry out internal digestion the the litter in their intestinal tract.There are assorted classes that insects that are involved in the procedure of decomposition, i beg your pardon is share based upon the kind of dead matter they feeding upon:

Dead or decaying tree tissues feeding insects Dead pets or tissue feeding insects Excrement feeding insects (eg: Arthropods prefer the dung beetle)


Detritivores room the organisms that orally feed on the dead matter (both plant as well as animal origin) and fecal waste and break down the litter in your intestinal tracts. So, are worms decomposers?”

Earthworms room the classical example of the worms the enrich the soil by decomposing the litter. The earthworms feeding upon the dead matter as well as fecal waste and also in your intestinal tract, the litter is cure by the enzymes resulting in the malfunction of the litter, which is ultimately expelled by the earthworm right into the soil. This worms enrich the soil through essential elements like phosphate and calcium etc. Worms pat a an important role in the ecology the the soil.

Figure 2: Representative photo of all the types of decomposers in the ecosystem. Essentially, insects and also worms room the decomposer animals. Source: Copeland, M. & Tolbert IV, W.’s Food Chain Cycles blog.


These ubiquitous, microscope organisms are the crown holder of the process of decomposition. So, this answers the most typical question ‘are bacteria decomposers?’Bacteria aid to recycle the crucial nutrients choose nitrogen and also carbon etc and also make them easily accessible to the producer in the food chain. Bacteria are also classified as saprotroph.

Decomposers and also Detritivores

Decomposers space a team of organisms the essentially break down decaying organic matter. There space two significant groups that consist of the decomposers: detritivores that feed on dead matter and also saprotrophs. Detritivores include the pet decomposers conversely, the saprotrophs space exemplified through fungi and also bacteria. Although decomposers and detritivores are occasionally used synonymously they room two distinctive terms. Although the hatchet “decomposer” is a an ext inclusive hatchet to incorporate not just the saprotrophs but also detritivores.

Table 1: Difference in between Decomposers and Detritivores

Decomposers Detritivores
Decomposers are a much more inclusive team of biology that degeneration the dead matter They incorporate detritivores and also saprotrophs. Detritivores are the organisms the feed orally top top the dead matter, to acquire nutrients and energy.
Examples that decomposers: fungi, bacteria, earthworms, insects Examples the detritivores: millipedes, earthworms, crabs, flies, etc.
Decomposers plot on the dead matter, e.g. Through secreting the enzymes and also digesting the matter externally. Detritivores add to the decomposition process, particularly, by ingesting the dead matter, and then digesting the in your digestive tract
Decomposers cannot act top top the clumps of the dead matter. Detritivores can feed upon big clumps that the dead matter.

Decomposers and Scavengers

Decomposers, and scavengers, are the important part of the food cycle affiliated in the environmental recycling the nutrients and organic matter. However, the two-class that organisms differ in their mechanism of work. Essentially, scavengers space the initiators that the process of decomposition i m sorry is ultimately taken over by the decomposers. The key difference between the course of the organisms is provided in the table.

Table 2: Difference between Decomposers and also Scavengers

Scavengers Decomposers
Initiate the process of the decomposition through breaking under the dead mass into little particles Act ~ above the little particles that room made accessible due to the action of scavengers and failure further to productivity the straightforward elements like, carbon, calcium, phosphorous, etc.
Initiators that the decomposition process Finisher of the decomposition process
Insects (e.g. Cockroach, flies, etc), birds (e.g., vultures) fishes, and also crabs Bacteria, Fungi, and also Invertebrates (e.g. Earthworms and also millipedes)


Let’s uncover out what decomposition is, exactly how the decomposers bring it out, and the determinants affecting the process.

Definition the decomposition

What is decomposition? that is the process of breaking down complex organic matter into a simple form. Any kind of organic matter, dead or garbage or excreta is acted top top by the decomposers i.e., bacteria, fungi and is damaged down into straightforward organic molecule forms.

Stages the decomposition

Every living being on planet eventually dies off. As soon as dead, the procedure of decomposition must initiate because that the continuation of life on earth. Decomposition is the essential step that recycling vital matter right into the food cycle. The process of decomposition is essentially made up of five stages.

1. Fragmentation

As the surname of this stage suggests, the dead massive is fragmented. That way the large pieces are turned into smaller pieces. Fragmentation the the huge mass rises the surface area the the detritus. This step is the initiation of the decomposition procedure carried the end by detritivores. The detritivores engulf the dead mass and in their gastrointestinal tract, the large mass of the dead matter is broken into tiny pieces because that the decomposers come act upon.

2. Leaching

Fragmented detritus includes a many water-soluble nutrient organic (simple compounds) and also inorganic in nature. The water that percolates with the soil, dissolves this water-soluble nutrients and also enriches the soil through them by the procedure of leaching.

3. Catabolism

Once the detritus is fragmented and water-soluble nutrient are eliminated from the detritus, enzymes released by the decomposing fungi and also the bacteria act upon the detritus. These enzymes catabolize the detritus additional to breakdown the facility matter into an easy molecular nutrients.

4. Humification

The procedure of catabolism is complied with by the process of humification. Humification is the procedure of the formation of humus. Humus is the very nutrient-rich, dark-colored layer on the floor which is consisted of of amorphous substances. This class is extremely resilient to any action of the microbes. This layer of soil contributes majorly come the fertility of the soil.

5. Mineralization

In the last action of decomposition, the not natural substances such together Ca+2, Mg+2, K+1, NH4+1, etc. In addition to CO2, H2O are released right into the soil, thus further enriching the soil v the nutrient matter.

Nutrient Immobilization

Under certain certain conditions throughout decomposition, details soil nutrients acquire bound v the microbial biomass and also this results in the unavailability that the nutrients to various other organisms. This kind of integration the nutrients through the living microbes is recognized as nutrient immobilization. Though, the duration of immobilization and availability of such nutrient is variable and also may even get mineralized only after microbial death. This immobilization of nutrient thwarts the washing off of such nutrients from the ecosystem.

Here, it is important to know the difference in between the process of decomposition and also putrefaction, which may be perplexed as synonyms. Decomposition is the procedure of break-down of essential dead matter into less complicated forms of matter. Putrefaction is a phase of decomposition inside protein malfunction of the dead mass occurs. As a an outcome of the protein breakdown, the cohesiveness the the tissue is lost and also the break down of the tissue occurs.

Factors affecting decomposition

A number of factors influence the price of the procedure of decomposition-

Quality the Litter. The structural and also chemical nature of the litter strongly impact the price of decomposition. For eg., the visibility of lignin in the litter the bryophytes outcomes in slower decomposition that the bryophytes. Temperature. it is a well-established truth that the development and activity of microorganisms space governed by temperature. Thus, the temperature readjust in various geological conditions likewise affects the process of decomposition. Lowering of the temperature, as seen on higher altitudes with low temperature, significantly slows under the process of decomposition. This can be attributed to the slow-moving microbial development at low temperatures. Aeration. The bulk of the decomposers especially decomposing bacteria room aerobic in nature. Thus, oxygen becomes an important element because that the process of decomposition. In soil, oxygen is current in the pores that the soil. Soil pH. The pH that would allow the decomposers to thrive optimally will hasten the process of decomposition. Generally, decomposers grow in a neutral or contempt acidic pH. Alkaline pH is not supportive the the procedure of decomposition. Interestingly, this principle is utilized for solving the tissue/organ specimen top top the slide for microscopy v the assist of formaldehyde. Inorganic Chemicals. The chemical top quality of detritus affects the price of decomposition. The existence of inorganic minerals have the right to slow under the process of decomposition. Moisture. because that the physiological procedures of microbes, the existence of water or humidity is essential. The quantity of moisture hence governs the expansion of the microbes, which subsequently affects the procedure of decomposition.

Thus, it deserve to be concluded that the high quality of detritus and also the environmental conditions affect the procedure of decomposition.

eco-friendly role: the duty of decomposers is ecologically crucial as lock recycle the nutrients with a organic biological procedure (decomposition). Examples of decomposers are fungi and bacteria that acquire their nutrient from a dead tree or animal material. They break down the cells of dead biology into less complicated substances, which end up being organic nutrients easily accessible to the ecosystem.

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Decomposer Examples

Each ecosystem has different kinds the decomposers. Relying on the terrain or the ecosystem, the type of decomposers space enlisted below.

Decomposers in the aquatic ecosystem

(1) Oceans/ Seawater decomposers: dry temperatures like that that the Pacific s favors the growth and also survival of the decomposers in the sea/oceans. Some of the typically found decomposers that the oceans/seawater are:

Christmas tree worms, capture the floating organic matter with the aid of their feathery appendages Crabs are taken into consideration the sea scavengers Granulated sea star, cleans up the dead issue in the sea by relocating along the rocky surface. Hagfish are the scavengers the feed ~ above seawater carcasses and also take increase the nutrients from them. Sea urchin, are the consumers and also decomposers that feed top top the Scarpe rock issue Tube worm

(2) Freshwater decomposers: Herein, the decomposers space mostly uncovered at the bed that the river, ponds, or lakes. Few of the typically found decomposers that freshwater are:

Mildew, a kind of maritime bacteria Trumpet snail, a freshwater snail that is a scavenger and is taken into consideration as insect Water mold, freshwater, or a soil bacterium Yeast, freshwater bacteria

Terrestrial Ecosystem Decomposers

(1) woodland Ecosystem Decomposers: forest bed has different decomposers. Several of them are:

Beetle, space the shredders that feed ~ above detritus Earthworms feed upon detritus Millipede, one more shredder that feeds ~ above detritus Mushroom is a sort of fungi that breed ~ above the ground or the dead product Pillbug, another shredder that feeds top top detritus Saprobe, sort of floor bacteria Slime mold, sort of saprobe growing on the rotten wet wood and leaves Slug, one more shredder that feeds ~ above detritus

(2) Desert Ecosystem Decomposers: deserts room the short humidity ecosystem so conventional decomposers (Fungi or bacteria) carry out not exist in the desert ecosystem. Just insect decomposers exist in the desert ecosystem. Some of them room as follows:

The dung beetle, animal feces feeding bacteria Fly, decaying issue feeding insect Millipede, decaying plant product feeding insects Saharan silver ant, are the deserts ants that feed on pet carcasses

(3) meadow Ecosystem Decomposers: this can be similar to woodland ecosystem desert. Some of the typical examples are:

Acido bacteria, a certain bacterium that is discovered in grasslands or savannas Termite, insects that failure the cellulose the the timber Turkey tail and mushroom are the fungus feeding top top dead logs

(4) hill Ecosystem Decomposers: these are also similar to woodland ecosystem decomposers. Several of the instances are:

Bolete mushrooms room the fungi feeding ~ above the ponderosa pine tree tree by-products. Mountain pine bark beetle, dying and also dead trees feeding insects purple fairy fingers, fungus feeding on the decaying tree


Buresova, A., Kopecky, J., Hrdinkova, V., Kamenik, Z., Omelka, M., & Sagova-Mareckova, M. (2019). Succession of Microbial Decomposers Is identified by Litter Type, but Site problems Drive Decomposition Rates. Applied and also environmental microbiology, 85(24), e01760-19. Https://doi.org/10.1128/AEM.01760-19 Floudas, D., Bentzer, J., Ahrén, D., Johansson, T., Persson, P., & Tunlid, A. (2020). Uncovering the surprise diversity that litter-decomposition instrument in mushroom-forming fungi. The ISME journal, 14(8), 2046–2059. Https://doi.org/10.1038/s41396-020-0667-6 Krah, F. S., Bässler, C., Heibl, C., Soghigian, J., Schaefer, H., & Hibbett, D. S. (2018). Evolutionary dynamics of host specialization in wood-decay fungi. BMC evolutionary biology, 18(1), 119. Https://doi.org/10.1186/s12862-018-1229-7