Decomposer vs. Detritivore

Main Difference

Although decomposers or detritivores may have same type of diet but they have many differences. The main difference between decomposer and detritivore is, decomposers are micro organisms which which obtain their nourishment from organic matter and on the contrary, detritivores feed on detritus, they feed on organic matter.


decomposersDecomposer break down deceased or rotting organisms. They utilize organic substrates as a source of energy, essential nutrients and carbon and that is why they are known as heterotrophic organisms. Decomposers can be classified into fungi and detritivore. Most common decomposers are fungi which use chemical compounds to break down substances for the requirement of energy. They break down complex substances into simpler ones. The decomposers and detritivores play a major role in the ecosystem as well. In the ecosystem, decomposers are responsible for breaking down or decaying substances that fertilize the soil where plants are grown normally. As the name suggest, decomposers act on the dead matter and decay it. In food chain, these organisms occupy a very low place but they play an important role in the food web. Many bacterias and fungi act on the dead decaying matter and obtain their energy from them.


detritivoreDetritivore also performs same function as a decomposer does. They feed on dead plants and animals but apart from that, they also perform functions which are useful for our ecosystem. Therefore, they become an integral part of the ecosystem where they dwell. They occupy the marine as well as the soil ecosystem. Worms, millipedes, crabs, and many more are examples of a detritivore. They are also known to scavenge over the dead leaves to obtain nutrition. They cause fragmentation of detritus, ingesting the organic matter from it.

Key Differences

  • Decomposers decompose substances by a chemical process while detritivores do not.
  • Detritivore is useful in making important nutrient substances.
  • Detritivore actually eat organic matter but decomposers are known to secrete enzymes for the decaying of dead organic matter.
  • Detritivore consume detritus to obtain energy.
  • Detritivore is one of the form of decomposers.
  • Decomposer breaks down substances to through a process of decomposition while detritivore consume the dead or decaying matter.
  • Most bacterias and fungi are the decomposers but detritivores are in the form of worms, crabs and many more such organisms.

Video Explanation

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