Common examples of detritivores include millipedes, dung flies, woodlice, burying beetles and many types of terrestrial worms. Detritivores, which obtain nutrients from decomposing organic matter, are important parts of the nutrient cycle and decomposition.
Many detritivores live in mature woodlands. Some, however, can live in marine ecosystems where they are also known as bottom feeders. These creatures are normally considered decomposers in food webs, which makes them important recyclers in their ecosystems. They enhance the energy flow and biogeochemical cycles within their ecosystems.
In addition to animals, fungi, bacteria and protisits are considered detritivores. While these organisms may be unable to consume lumps of matter, they are able to absorb and metabolise matter on a molecular scale.
Today, fungi play an important role in the decomposition process. However, during the Carboniferous period, bacteria and fungus had not yet evolved to the point where they could digest lignin. This resulted in large deposits of dead plant matter accumulating in this period. This matter later became fossil fuels.
Scavengers are not typically thought of as detritivores. These animals typically eat larger portions of other organic matter. Coprovores, which eat feces, are also generally classified differently. This is due to their slightly different feeding behaviors.