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Decomposers and Scavengers

wormWhat do you do with your garbage? Do you just throw it away or do you recycle it?  Recycling helps us make good use of our resources. In nature there are lots of animals responsible for recycling.

Some animals eat dead animals or carrion. They are called scavengers. They help break down or reduce organic material into smaller pieces. These smaller pieces are then eaten by decomposers. Decomposers eat dead materials and break them down into chemical parts. Nitrogen, carbon and other nutrients can then be used again by plants and animals. Without decomposers and scavengers, the world would be covered with dead plants and animals!
    Did You Know?
cockroach... cockroaches are scavengers.

... turkey vultures have adaptations that help them eat carrion.

... bacteria, fungi and microbes help decompose organic matter.

    What Do You Think?
Question MarksClick here to test your decomposer and scavenger knowledge.


File FolderLearn more about some of the animals featured in this episode.

opossum red fox
    Teacher's Guide

AppleClick here to access the teacher's guide for this episode.


    View Online
Patrice looks at the important role decomposers and scavengers play in the natural world. She then visits with Dave and they check on the progress of the decomposition of a dead gray squirrel. In the third segment, we take an up-close look at the turkey vulture. Finally, Hawk Mathany and Chris Thayer of the Appalachian Mountain Club show Laura and Marshall just how and what they recycle in the wilderness. Watch Online >>

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