Parasite vs Saprophyte: Difference and Comparison

For survival, every organism has several types of nutritional requirements. Some organisms depend on dead materials for nourishment, while others depend on other living organisms.

Parasites and saprophytes are organisms that adhere to a heterotrophic nutrition mode, where they cannot make their food. But these two organisms have some differences between them.

Key Takeaways

  1. Parasites obtain nutrients directly from a living host, causing harm to the host, while saprophytes derive nutrients from dead or decaying organic matter.
  2. Parasites have a symbiotic relationship with their host, whereas saprophytes do not require a host for survival.
  3. Saprophytes play a critical role in recycling nutrients in ecosystems, while parasites can cause various diseases and infections.

Parasite vs Saprophyte

A parasite is an organism that lives on or inside another organism, called the host, and benefits at the host’s expense. A saprophyte is an organism that obtains its nourishment from dead or decaying organic matter, breaking down dead organic material and recycling it into the ecosystem.

Parasite vs Saprophyte

A parasite refers to an organism that lives another living organism, which is known as the host. It harms the host and relies on them for getting nutrition.

A parasite can’t grow, multiply, and live without a host. A parasite rarely kills its host but can spread diseases, which can be fatal.

A saprophyte is an organism that feeds on a decaying or dead organism to survive. A saprophyte can’t make its food.

Saprophytes refer to mostly some species of bacteria or fungi. Plants like mycorrhizal fungi, Indian pipe, mushrooms, moulds, and Corallorhiza orchids are some examples of saprophytes.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonParasiteSaprophyte
DefinitionA saprophyte refers to a living organism that depends on decaying or dead matter for getting nutrition. A parasite can be found in plants, humans, and other animals.    
HabitatGenerally, a parasite never kills its host, but it can spread diseases, and sometimes it can be fatal.    A saprophyte can be found in animals and plants. 
Digestion system The digestion system of the parasite is intracellular.     The digestion system of the saprophyte is extracellular.
HarmfulnessA parasite absorbs all the nutrients through a haustorium, a root-like structure that grows around other living organisms.     A saprophyte can’t harm its host as the host is already dead. 
Nutrition process A parasite absorbs all the nutrients through a haustorium, which is a root-like structure that grows around other living organisms.     A saprophyte absorbs all the nutrients through its cell wall.

What is Parasite?

A parasite is a heterotrophic organism that lives on or at a host organism to take all the nutrients for survival. A parasite is smaller than its host and absorbs all the nutrients through a haustorium.

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Haustoria is a root-like structure that grows around other living organisms. A parasite can use both a vertebrate host and an invertebrate host.

An adult parasite may feed on a host (for example- mosquitoes), live in the host (for example- tapeworms), or on the host (for example- lice). A parasite doesn’t kill its host as it takes nutrients from the host but can spread diseases to the host body.

Sometimes the disease can be fatal, which can kill the host. Many parasites have suckers, claws, or hooks for attaching to their host body.

Usually, a parasite has either a sucking and piercing (for example- fleas) or sucker-type mouthparts (for example- leeches) for getting nutrients from the host body. Many invertebrate groups have parasitic members.

Some common parasites are parasitic mites, fleas, ticks, parasitic flies (for example- mosquitoes), and leeches. Stylos are parasites of bugs, bees, and wasps. A parasite can be bacteria, fungi, viruses, protists, animals, or plants. Almost 40% of animals are parasites.

Some parasites live inside the host (for example- endoparasites), while others live on the host (for example- ectoparasites).

parasite

What is Saprophyte?

A saprophyte is a heterotrophic organism that relies on decaying or dead matter for survival. Saprophytes are found in animals or plants.

Saprophyte is also called decomposer as it feeds on the decaying or dead organism or matter. Some well-known saprophytes are mushrooms, moulds, fungi, yeast, and so on. 

Saprophytes are very important living organisms in soil biology. A saprophyte is also helpful in breaking complex substances into simple matters.

Several plants take these matters or substances to help different types of activities. As a saprophyte is found only in animals and plants, it doesn’t need any medications.

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It can be either prokaryotic or eukaryotic organisms. A saprophyte can not harm its host as it is already decaying or dead.

It absorbs all the nutrients from its host through its cell walls. A saprophyte is not specific to its host as it can get nutrients from any decaying or dead matter.

The digestion system of a saprophyte is extracellular. A saprophyte contributes to the cleanliness of the environment.

During feeding, it breaks down decomposed organic matter left behind by other dead plants and organisms. In this feeding process, several essential materials are left behind,, eventually becoming soil.

saprophyte

Main Differences Between Parasite and Saprophyte 

  1. A parasite refers to a living organism that depends on the host body for taking nutrition. The host must be a living organism. On the other hand, a saprophyte refers to a living organism that depends on decaying or dead matter for getting nutrition.
  2. A parasite can be found in plants, humans, and any other animals. A saprophyte can be found in animals and plants.
  3. Generally, a parasite never kills its host, but it can spread diseases, and sometimes the disease can be fatal. On the contrary, a saprophyte can’t harm its host as the host is already dead.
  4. The digestion system of the parasite is intracellular but the digestion system of the saprophyte is extracellular.
  5. A parasite absorbs all the nutrients through a haustorium, which is a root-like structure that grows around other living organisms. A saprophyte absorbs all the nutrients through its cell wall.
Difference Between Parasite and Saprophyte
References
  1. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=parasite&oq=parasite#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3D0CguXWocLhEJ
  2. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?hl=en&as_sdt=0%2C5&q=saprophytes&oq=sapro#d=gs_qabs&u=%23p%3Dp8tJqARHlHoJ

Last Updated : 30 June, 2023

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