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Difference between parasites and saprotrophs.

Last updated date: 16th May 2024
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Hint: There are many living organisms present on the earth. Each organism has its own special characteristics. The parasites are organisms that live on or inside another host organism, usually causing it some harm. Parasitism is exhibited by organisms from all divisions including protozoans, plants, animals and fungi. Whereas saprophytic organisms are the one that feeds on dead and decayed matter. This type of nutrition is mainly exhibited by fungi.

Complete answer:
The main differences between parasites and saprotrophs is given in the table below.
Parasitic organisms depend on other organisms (live) for their nutrition.Saprophytic organism lives on dead and decay matters to obtain nutrition.
These organisms use intracellular digestion.These organisms use extracellular digestion.
Parasites absorb nutrition from the host through a specialized organ called haustoria.Saprophytes absorb nutrition through their cell wall.
They produce harmful effects on their host.They don’t produce any harmful effects.
Parasites are either unicellular, multicellular or filamentous.Saprophytes are either unicellular amoeboids or filamentous.
They don’t perform any important function in the ecosystem. They only have harmful effects.They play an important role in the recycling process in the ecosystem. They are involved in carbon cycle, phosphorus cycle, and nitrogen cycle as recyclers of dead materials.
They don’t secrete any special enzymes.Saprophytes secrete special enzymes to digest the decaying organic matter.
They reproduce both asexually and sexually. Sexual reproduction occurs through hybridization.They reproduce through spore formation or simple division.
The examples of parasites are Plasmodium, lice, fleas, mites, ticks, roundworms, Cuscata and Rafflesia etc.The examples include mushrooms and bacteria.

Saprophytes and parasites have one commonality which is they are both heterotrophs. Heterotroph organisms cannot produce their own food. They obtain nutrition from other sources of organic matter, mainly plant or animal matter. In the food chain, heterotrophs are the primary, secondary and tertiary consumers which consume producers. Saprophytes secrete special enzymes to digest dead organic matter and absorb them in simple forms of nutrients. Parasites completely depend on a host organism for their nutrients. Therefore, they cause diseases in both plants and animals.