This you imagine the smell and view

This lesson will cover information about detritivores including a few examples.

Learn about the important role detritivores play in our world, and take a quiz at the end to test your knowledge.

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What Are Detritivores?

You may have heard of carnivores, herbivores, or even omnivores. But what in the world are detritivores?! Considering the terms that you already know, you likely are thinking that it has something to do with an organism that gets its energy from eating something.

So far, you are right!Similarly to how carnivores eat meat and herbivores eat herbs or plants, detritivores eat detritus. Detritus refers to organic waste matter. Let’s pause and think about something for a minute.Take a moment, and think about all the times in your life that you have seen dead animals, dead plants, and feces on the ground. This occurred more times than you can probably even recall. You would think that our world would be full of these dead organisms and fecal matter.

Luckily for us, we are not overrun with dead organisms and feces. Could you imagine the smell and view if every dead organism you ever saw were still around?We can thank the detritivores for helping to get rid of the dead organic matter. They actually feed on the dead organic matter and feces to get their energy. This is very advantageous to us and other organisms. Let’s look at some examples of detritivores and how they help keep our world cleaner.


Earthworms are detritivores that help make soil fertile.
Dung flies are helpful in making fertile soil by digesting fecal matter.

Picture of dung flies feeding on feces

Another detritivore that is welcomed by gardeners is the dung fly. The dung fly feeds specifically on feces. This is also where they reproduce and breed. The dung flies will feed continuously on a pile of feces until it is completely consumed. The digestive system of the dung fly also produces a very rich output that helps to make very fertile soil for plant development and production. Plants are normally larger and healthier when they are produced in soil enhanced by dung flies.

The last example we are going to look at is the roly poly. Roly poly is the common name, but they are actually named the woodlouse. Roly polies are able to produce a substance that a lot of gardeners purchase and others work to set up the right set of circumstances to produce.That substance is compost. Compost is a combination of the digested organic material from detritivores and decomposers mixed with the undigested organic material that still exists in the ground. Roly polies are very instrumental in the process of composting.

Lesson Summary

Let’s review. Detritivores are organisms that get their needed energy and nutrients by eating dead organic matter, such as dead plants, dead animals, and fecal matter. This dead organic matter is called detritus. They are extremely important in the earth since they help to keep the amount of dead organic matter to a minimum and make the soil very nutrient-rich for plant growth.

Examples of detritivores are earthworms, roly polies, and dung flies. Roly polies are helpful in the production of compost, which gardeners use to make soil richer so plants grow larger.


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