Detritivores, also known as detrivores, detritophages, detritus feeders, or detritus eaters, are heterotrophs that obtain nutrients by consuming detritus (decomposing plant and animal parts as well as feces). There are many kinds of invertebrates, vertebrates and plants that carry out coprophagy. By doing so, all these detritivores contribute to decomposition and the nutrient cycles. They should be distinguished from other decomposers, such as many species of bacteria, fungi and protists, which are unable to ingest discrete lumps of matter, but instead live by absorbing and metabolizing on a molecular scale (saprotrophic nutrition). However, the terms detritivore and decomposer are often used interchangeably.
Detritivores are an important aspect of many ecosystems. They can live on any soil with an organic component, including marine ecosystems, where they are termed interchangeably with bottom feeders. Typical detritivorous animals include millipedes, springtails, woodlice, dung flies, slugs, many terrestrial worms, sea stars, sea cucumbers, fiddler crabs, and some sedentary polychaetes such as amphitrites (Amphitritinae, worms of the family Terebellidae) and other terebellids. Scavengers are typically not thought to be detritivores, as they generally eat large quantities of organic matter, but both detritivores and scavengers are specific cases of consumer-resource systems. The eating of wood, whether alive or dead, is known as xylophagy. Τhe activity of animals feeding only on dead wood is called sapro-xylophagy and those animals, sapro-xylophagous. Ecology
In food webs, detritivores generally play the roles of decomposers. Detritivores are often eaten by consumers and therefore commonly play important roles as recyclers in ecosystem energy flow and biogeochemical cycles. Many detritivores live in mature woodland, though the term can be applied to certain bottom-feeders in wet environments. These organisms play a crucial role in benthic ecosystems, forming essential food chains and participating in the nitrogen cycle. Fungi, acting as decomposers, are important in today's terrestrial environment. During the Carboniferous period, fungi and bacteria had yet to evolve the capacity to digest lignin, and so large deposits of dead plant tissue accumulated during this period, later becoming the fossil fuels.
A decaying tree trunk in Canada's boreal forest. Decaying wood fills an important ecological niche, providing habitat and shelter, and returning important nutrients to the soil after undergoing decomposition.
By feeding on sediments directly to extract the organic component, some detritivores accidentally concentrate toxic pollutants. See also
Decomposer Saprotrophic nutrition Nepenthes ampullaria Consumer-resource systems
^ Wetzel, R. G. 2001. Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems. Academic
Press. 3rd. p.700.
^ Getz, W. (2011). Biomass transformation webs provide a unified
approach to consumer–resource modelling.
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Hematophagy Insectivore Lepidophagy Man-eater Molluscivore Mucophagy Myrmecophagy Ophiophagy Piscivore Avivore Spongivore Vermivore
Oophagy Paedophagy Placentophagy Breastfeeding Weaning
Animal cannibalism Human cannibalism Self-cannibalism Sexual cannibalism
Folivore Florivore Frugivore Graminivore Granivore Nectarivore Palynivore Xylophagy Osteophagy
Microbivory Bacterivore Fungivore Coprophagia Detritivore Geophagia Omnivore Planktivore Saprophagy Xenophagy
Predation Antipredator adaptation Carnivorous plant Carnivorous fungus Carnivorous protist Category:Eating behaviors
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Ecology: Modelling ecosystems: Trophic components
Autotrophs Chemosynthesis Chemotrophs Foundation species Mixotrophs Myco-heterotrophy Mycotroph Organotrophs Photoheterotrophs Photosynthesis Photosynthetic efficiency Phototrophs Primary nutritional groups Primary production
Generalist and specialist species
Chemoorganoheterotrophy Decomposition Detritivores Detritus
Archaea Bacteriophage Environmental microbiology Lithoautotroph Lithotrophy Microbial cooperation Microbial ecology Microbial food web Microbial intelligence Microbial loop Microbial mat Microbial metabolism Phage ecology
Biomagnification Ecological efficiency Ecological pyramid Energy flow Food chain Trophic level
Cold seeps Hydrothermal vents Intertidal Kelp forests Lakes North Pacific Subtropical Gyre Rivers San Francisco Estuary Soil Tide pool
Competitive exclusion principle
Energy Systems Language
Feed conversion ratio
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Ecology: Modelling ecosystems: Other components
Abundance Allee effect Depensation Ecological yield Effective population size Intraspecific competition Logistic function Malthusian growth model Maximum sustainable yield Overpopulation in wild animals Overexploitation Population cycle Population dynamics Population modeling Population size Predator–prey (Lotka–Volterra) equations Recruitment Resilience Small population size Stability
Biodiversity Density-dependent inhibition Ecological effects of biodiversity Ecological extinction Endemic species Flagship species Gradient analysis Indicator species Introduced species Invasive species Latitudinal gradients in species diversity Minimum viable population Neutral theory Occupancy–abundance relationship Population viability analysis Priority effect Rapoport's rule Relative abundance distribution Relative species abundance Species diversity Species homogeneity Species richness Species distribution Species-area curve Umbrella species
Antibiosis Biological interaction Commensalism Community ecology Ecological facilitation Interspecific competition Mutualism Storage effect
Alternative stable state
Balance of nature
Biological data visualization
List of ec