What Is the Scientific Meaning of a Scavenger?

In science, a scavenger is an organism that consumes a decaying organism. Some common examples of scavengers are vultures, hyenas and insects, such as blowflies. There are also scavenger cells, which surround and destroy invading microorganisms.

In general, an animal classified as a scavenger is a carnivore, or a meat eater. That said, some scavengers also eat dead or decaying plant matter. Most, however, are familiar with scavengers that consume dead and decaying animals. Scavengers hold an important role in the food web as they keep their ecosystem clean by disposing of decaying matter. These animals break down the organic material and recycle it into the ecosystem.

The food web is a depiction of which animals eat other animals, and it is grouped into different levels based on nutrition.

The first and most basic level is made up of autotrophs. These are animals that produce their own food, also known as producers. This group contains organisms such as algae and other plants.

The next group is the herbivores. Herbivores are organisms that only eat plants and algae. Herbivores are consumers, specifically primary consumers, because these animals consume autotrophs.

The third group in the food web is made up of carnivores, animals that eat only meat, and omnivores, animals that eat both plants and meat. Scavengers are included in this category.