detritus

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Detritus


Detritus is dead and decaying matter including the wastes of organisms. It is composed of organic material resulting from the fragmentation and decomposition of plants and animals after they die. Detritus is decomposed by bacterial activity, which can help cycle nutrients back into the food chain. In aquatic environments, detritus may make up a substantial percentage of the particulate organic carbon (POC) that is suspended in the water column. Animals that consume detritus are called "detritivores". Although detritus is available in large quantities in most ecosystems, it is usually not a very high quality food, and may be lacking in essential nitrogen or carbon compounds. Detritivores generally must expend a larger amount of energy to assimilate carbon and nutrients from detritus than from sources of food based on living plant or animal material. Some detritivores harbor beneficial bacteria or fungi in their guts to aid in the digestion of compounds that are difficult to degrade.

[Marie H. Bundy ]

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de·tri·tus / diˈtrītəs/ • n. waste or debris of any kind: streets filled with rubble and detritus. ∎  gravel, sand, silt, or other material produced by erosion. ∎  organic matter produced by the decomposition of organisms. DERIVATIVES: de·tri·tal / -təl/ adj.

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detritus Particles of organic material derived from dead and decomposing organisms, resulting from the activities of the decomposers. Detritus is the source of food for detritivores, which can themselves be eaten by carnivores in a detritus food chain: detritus → detritivore → carnivore.

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detritus Litter formed from fragments of dead material (e.g. leaf litter, dung, moulted feathers, and corpses). In aquatic habitats, detritus provides habitats equivalent to those which occur in soil humus.

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detritus Litter formed from fragments of dead material (e.g. leaf-litter, dung, moulted feathers, and corpses). In aquatic habitats, detritus provides habitats equivalent to those which occur in soil humus.

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detritus Literally, debris produced by rubbing; fragments of dead material (e.g. leaf litter, dung, moulted feathers, and corpses). In aquatic habitats, detritus provides habitats equivalent to those that occur in soil humus.

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Detritus

an accumulation of debris; any waste or disintegrated material. See also debris.

Examples: detritus of languages, 1851; of ruins, 1866; of loose stones, 1851; loose detritus of thought, 1849.

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detritus †wearing away by rubbing XVIII; (after F. détritus) matter produced by such action XIX. — L. dētrītus, f. dētrī- (see prec.).

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detritus (di-try-tŭs) n. particles of matter produced by disintegration, tissue death, etc.