Write the Difference Between Parasites and Saprotroph?

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: September 13th, 2023

Parasites obtain nutrients from a living host organism and have a close, often harmful, relationship with the host. On the other hand, saprotrophs obtain nutrients from dead organic matter or decaying material without harming or depending on a specific host organism. Hence, both organisms are completely different in terms of nutrient acquisition and their relationship with the host. Let us dive deeper and understand the differences between parasites and saprotrophs and find out some common examples of parasites and saprotrophs.

Difference Between Parasites and Saprotroph

As mentioned above, parasites and saprotrophs are both types of organisms that obtain nutrients from other sources. Still, they differ in their modes of obtaining these nutrients and their interactions with the host or substrate. Parasites are organisms that live on or inside a host organism and derive their nutrients from the host. They depend on the host for their survival and reproduction.

In contrast, saprotrophs obtain nutrients by breaking down and decomposing organic material. Hence, saprotrophs do not have a direct interaction with a living host instead they interact with dead plants, animals, and organic waste. We have illustrated the difference between parasites and saprotrophs in the form of a table below.



Obtain nutrients from a living host organism

Obtain nutrients from decaying organic matter or dead organisms

Close association with host organism, often causing harm

No direct interaction with a living host, decompose dead organic matter

Feed on tissues, blood, or body fluids of the host

Secrete enzymes to break down complex organic matter into simpler forms

Depend on the host for survival and reproduction

Can exist and obtain nutrients independently

Examples of Parasites and Saprotrophs

Both parasites and saprotrophs can be found easily in our surroundings. Here are some examples of parasites and saprotrophs:

Examples of Parasites

  • Malaria Parasite (Plasmodium): Plasmodium is a parasitic protozoan that causes malaria in humans by infecting red blood cells.
  • Human Body Lice (Pediculus humanus): These lice are parasitic insects that live and feed on human hosts, particularly in areas with poor hygiene.
  • Ticks: Ticks are external parasites that feed on the blood of animals, including humans.

Examples of Saprotrophs

  • Fungi: Many fungi are saprotrophs that decompose dead organic matter. They secrete enzymes to break down complex organic compounds in their surroundings and absorb the nutrients. Examples include mushrooms and molds.
  • Bacteria: Numerous bacteria are saprotrophs involved in the decomposition process. They break down organic matter, such as dead plants or animal remains, releasing nutrients back into the ecosystem. 
  • Earthworms: Earthworms are considered saprotrophs as they consume dead plant material and organic matter present in the soil. They break down and decompose the organic matter, enriching the soil with nutrients in the process.


Write the Difference Between Parasites and Saprotroph?

Parasites are organisms that live on or inside the host organism to obtain nutrients. On the other hand, saprotrophs are organisms that decompose and break down dead organisms to obtain nutrients. As a result, saprotrophs play a role in preserving the ecological balance of the environment. Some examples of parasites are malaria parasites, human body lice, and ticks, whereas some examples of saprotrophs are fungi, bacteria, and earthworms.

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