scavenger

All Sources -
Updated Media sources (1) About encyclopedia.com content Print Topic Share Topic
views updated

Scavenger

A scavenger is an animal that seeks out and feeds upon dead and/or decaying organic matter. Some scavengers specialize on feeding upon dead animals, or carrion, while others feed more generally on dead plants and animals.

Scavengers are part of the detrital food web of ecosystems. Scavengers provide a very important ecological service, because they help to rapidly reduce dead animals and plants to simpler constituents, and thereby prevent an excessive accumulation of dead biomass. Large quantities of dead animal biomass can represent an indirect health hazard to living animals, by enhancing the survival of pathogens. A similar effect can be caused to living plants by dead plant biomass. Excessive accumulations of dead plants can also bind up much of the nutrient capital of ecosystems, so that not enough is recycled for use by living plants, and ecosystem productivity becomes constrained by nutrient limitations. The

valuable ecological service of recycling of dead biomass is not just performed by scavengersother detritivores such as bacteria, and fungi are also important, and in fact are largely responsible for the final stages of the decomposition and humification process. However, scavengers are important in the initial stages of biomass decomposition and recycling.

There are many examples of scavengers. Invertebrates are the most abundant scavengers in terrestrial ecosystems, especially earthworms and insects such as beetles, flies, and ants. Many marine crustaceans are important scavengers, including most species of crabs and gammarids. Some birds are specialized as scavengers, most notably the New World vultures (family Cathartidae) and Old World vultures (family Accipitri-dae). The turkey vulture (Cathartes aura ) of the Americas is one of the only bird species that has a sense of smell, which is utilized to find carrion. Some mammals are opportunistic scavengers, eating dead animals when they can find them. Examples of such species in North America are black bear (Ursus americanus ), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos ), and wolverine (Gulo gulo ).

See also Food chain/web.

views updated

Scavenger

A scavenger is an animal that seeks out and feeds upon dead and/or decaying organic matter . Some scavengers specialize on feeding upon dead animals, or carrion, while others feed more generally on dead plants and animals.

Scavengers are part of the detrital food web of ecosystems. Scavengers provide a very important ecological service, because they help to rapidly reduce dead animals and plants to simpler constituents, and thereby prevent an excessive accumulation of dead biomass . Large quantities of dead animal biomass can represent a indirect health hazard to living animals, by enhancing the survival of pathogens . A similar effect can be caused to living plants by dead plant biomass. Excessive accumulations of dead plants can also bind up much of the nutrient capital of ecosystems, so that not enough is recycled for use by living plants, and ecosystem productivity becomes constrained by nutrient limitations. The valuable ecological service of recycling of dead biomass is not just performed by scavengers—other detritivores such as bacteria , and fungi are also important, and in fact are largely responsible for the final stages of the decomposition and humification process. However, scavengers are important in the initial stages of biomass decomposition and recycling.

There are many examples of scavengers. Invertebrates are the most abundant scavengers in terrestrial ecosystems, especially earthworms and insects such as beetles , flies , and ants . Many marine crustaceans are important scavengers, including most species of crabs and gammarids. Some birds are specialized as scavengers, most notably the New World vultures (family Cathartidae) and Old World vultures (family Accipitridae). The turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) of the Americas is one of the only bird species that has a sense of smell , which is utilized to find carrion. Some mammals are opportunistic


scavengers, eating dead animals when they can find them. Examples of such species in North America are black bear (Ursus americanus), grizzly bear (Ursus arctos), and wolverine (Gulo gulo).

See also Food chain/web.

views updated

scavengerbadger, cadger •Alger, neuralgia •ganja, grandeur, phalanger •charger, enlarger, maharaja, raja •slàinte • turbocharger •dredger, edger, hedger, ledger, pledger, St Leger •avenger, revenger •gauger, golden-ager, major, old-stager, pager, rampager, sergeant major, stager, wager •arranger, changer, danger, endanger, exchanger, Grainger, hydrangea, manger, ranger, stranger •moneychanger • teenager •bushranger •besieger, paraplegia, procedure •abridger •cringer, ginger, impinger, infringer, injure, ninja, whinger, winger •dowager • voyager • harbinger •bondager • wharfinger • packager •Scaliger •challenger, Salinger •pillager, villager •armiger • scrimmager •rummager, scrummager •manager • derringer • forager •porringer • encourager •Massinger, passenger •presager • messenger • Kissinger •integer, vintager •cottager • frontager • ravager •salvager • scavenger •Elijah, Niger, obliger •codger, dodger, lodger, roger, todger •forger, Georgia, gorger •gouger •lounger, scrounger •sunlounger • soldier •Abuja, puja

views updated

scav·eng·er / ˈskavənjər/ • n. an animal that feeds on carrion, dead plant material, or refuse. ∎  a person who searches for and collects discarded items. ∎  Chem. a substance that reacts with and removes particular molecules, radicals, etc.

views updated

Scavenger

Any substance or organism that cleans a setting by removing dirt, decaying matter, or some other unwanted material. Vultures are typical biological scavengers because they feed on the carcasses of dead animals. Certain chemicals can act as scavengers in chemical reactions. Lithium and magnesium are used in the metal industry as scavengers since these metals react with and remove small amounts of oxygen and nitrogen from molten metals. Even rain and snow can be regarded as scavengers because they wash pollutants out of the atmosphere .

views updated

scavenger An animal that feeds on dead organic matter. Scavengers (such as hyenas) may feed on animals killed by predators or they may be detritivores.

views updated

scavenger †officer who took ‘scavage’ and (later) kept the streets clean; person employed to clean streets XVI. alt. of scavager — AN. scawager, f. scawage; see prec. and -ER1.
Hence by back-formation scavenge vb. XVII.

views updated

scavenger See detritivore.

views updated

scavenger See DETRITIVORE.