- Ecology and Evolution
- Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses
This activity introduces characteristics of various decomposers, such as fungi, bacteria and invertebrates.
Fungi release chemicals externally to break down dead plants or animals into simpler substances. They absorb some of these substances for growth, but others are utilized by other organisms, including plants.
Bacteria are tiny, microscopic organisms. The ones that live on dead materials help break them down into nutrients which are returned to the soil.
There are many invertebrate decomposers. The most common are worms, flies, millipedes, and sow bugs (woodlice). Earthworms digest rotting plants, animal matter, fungi, and bacteria as they swallow soil. The waste that comes out of their bodies at the other end contains important minerals and nutrients ready for plants to absorb. Millipedes, sow bugs, and fly larvae (maggots) do a similar process, at different rates, but they rely on a different food source. Centipedes are part of the decomposer group because they eat other invertebrate decomposers, thereby keeping the decomposer populations balanced.