A detritivore (also known as decomposers) is an animal that feeds on dead organisms (living things) and breaks them down into smaller molecules. Detritivores are essential in the ecosystem as they return important materials such as carbon (see carbon cycle) back into the environment. Examples of common detritivores include earthworms and woodlice, but also includes microscopic (things that can only be seen using a microscope) bacteria.
Images for kids
Fungi are the primary decomposers in most environments, illustrated here Mycena interrupta. Only fungi produce the enzymes necessary to decompose lignin, a chemically complex substance found in wood.
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.
Earthworms are a good example of soil-dwelling detritivores.
Two Adonis blue butterflies lap at a small lump of feces lying on a rock.
Detritivore Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.