Saprophytic fungus: feeding through decomposition

What they are (definition)

Saprophytes are organisms that feed on organic matter from decomposition processes. They are heterotrophic because they obtain energy from organic matter from other living things.

The main living saprophytes are terrestrial fungi and some species of vascular plants.


The word saprophyte originates from the Greek, and sapros means rotten and ribbons means plants.


The process occurs with the release of enzymes by the saprophyte organism. These enzymes are capable of hydrolyzing the organic molecules of the organism undergoing decomposition. This process releases soluble biomolecules, which are absorbed by osmosis by the saprophyte.

Saprophyte fungi and their importance to ecosystems

Saprophyte fungi act as nutrient recyclers. They act in the process of decomposition of the substrate (where they live), favoring the use of substances by other organisms. This process also favors soil fertilization.

Example: There are fungi that break down rotting tree branches and stumps. The result of this process generates organic substances that serve as nutrients for other organisms in that ecosystem.

Did you know?

- Many bacteria act similarly to saprophyte organisms, but are considered only as decomposers.