An animal that consumes detritus, that is, dead animal or plant matter. In a food web, detritivores help break down decaying or dead matter into fragments for decomposers (Although the work of bacteria and fungi prepare the detritus for the detritivores as well). The term refers mainly to invertebrates such as earthworms, slugs, snails, millipedes, termites, beetle grubs, and fly maggots, mites, cockroaches, crickets, earwigs (as opposed to vertebrate scavengers, such as vultures or jackals).
The existence of detritivores feeding on carrion has also led to the creation of a field called forensic entomology.  It is frequently possible to determine when and where a person died or was murdered by identifying the species of detritivores that have colonized the body. --Conrad Toepfer, "Detritivore Review."*
Detritivores may form a parallel food chain within an ecosystem (Some vertebrate carnivores survive preying on the detritivores and ignore the herbivore population altogether).

*<> (16 July 2002)
Other sources:
Jenne, Bridgette. "Emigration Creek Project." Westminster College.   <> (16 July 2002)
Myles, T.G. "Lecture on the Fauna of Forest Soils." 30 October 1996. University of Toronto. <t;> (16 July 2002)

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