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Decomposers and Scavengers

Decomposers are organisms that consume dead plant and animal tissue and return the nutrients to the soil to fertilize new growth. Fungi are decomposers. Fungi grow well in the warm, moist rain forest; however, they do not grow well in drier climates where, instead, fire plays the important role of recycling nutrients from dead plants to the soil. If there were no decomposers and scavengers, dead things would pile up and soon there would be no room for living things.

Scavengers are animals that eat dead animals. Many animals of the savanna are scavengers - vultures, hyenas, black-backed jackals, and, as we learned earlier, predators, such as lions, often scavenge food. In the rain forest, there are few large scavengers, but numerous insects and fungi consume the dead animals, leaves, and fruits. In the savanna there are many scavengers, including vultures, which feed on the numerous animals that die from natural causes or clean up the carcasses after a predator is finished. Vultures have no feathers on their heads. If there were feathers on the head, they would get covered with blood and tissue from a carcass as the vulture feeds and become a source of disease. Unlike most birds, many vultures have a good sense of smell which helps them locate dead animals as they soar above the savanna.


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