What is a decomposer?
Decomposers are the last stop on the food chain, they eat the things no one else wants to. Decomposers many times eat dead things from the ground in order to get nutrients. The dead things that are eaten by decomposers are called detritus which means "garbage". Some of the most common decomposers are bacteria, worms, slugs, snails, and fungi like mushrooms.
Multiple Decomposers
[Decomposers at work]
Decomposers can be referred to as nature’s recyclers because they help keep nutrients moving in food webs. If the decomposers did not do their job the producers would not get the nutrients they need and would die. What would happen if we didn't have plants…well all living things would start to starve to death. Decomposers are very small so they can break down large pieces of dead stuff. If they didn’t do their job the ground would be covered with junk.

Decomposers in the Desert

[Beetle]                    [Earthworm]                  [Millipedes]                  
In the Desert it is hard for many decomposers to stay alive because they like moist areas. One of the only decomposers in Deserts is bacteria because they are so small and can live in the air. Some of the other decomposers in the desert are beetles, earth worms and millipedes.

Decomposers in other ecosystems
Decomposers in the Water

[Bacteria filled water]                [Clams]                     [Freshwater shrimp]       
There are not many types of decomposers in the water. Most types of decomposers in the water are different types of bacteria's. There are also scavengers like freshwater shrimp, clams, crabs, lobsters and flat worms. These fish eat dead animals and plants in the water.

Decomposers in the Forest

[Mushrooms]                        [Slug]    
In the desert there are many different decomposers some of them are snails, slugs, earthworms, bacteria and mushrooms. Whenever something dies in the forest these are the decomposers that break the dead material down in order to provide nutrients for the soil.

Decomposers in the Arctic

bacteriaArctic Raven
[Bacteria in the air]           [Arctic Raven]
Similar to the water the Arctic is a very hard place to live in because of its climate. Even though most decomposers cannot live in the Arctic, bacteria is one that can live there because it can live anywhere.
The arctic ravens are scavengers in the arctic. They eat carrion which are parts of dead animals.

Decomposers that hurt us

Some decomposers are harmful to humans. When we get sick it is usually due to bacteria in our system. When we take antibiotics to make us feel better we are injuring or killing the bacteria in us in order to make us feel better.


Did you know?
Mold is a type of fungi that can be found on old bread or other foods. In order for mold to survive they like to grow in dark, moist and warm places.

Moldy Bread
[Mold on Bread]

Lesson Plan Quiz Homework Activity The Food Chain