Difference Between Parasite and Saprophyte

For survival, every organism has several types of nutritional requirements. Some organisms depend on dead materials for their nourishment, while some organisms depend on other living organisms. Parasite and saprophyte are organisms that adhere to a heterotrophic nutrition mode, where they are unable to make their food. But these two organisms have some differences between them.

Parasite vs Saprophyte

The main difference between parasites and saprophytes is that parasites entirely rely on other living organisms for getting nutrition, on the other hand, a saprophyte depends on decaying and dead organic matter for getting their nutrition. A parasite can be multicellular or unicellular plants or animals, while a saprophyte mostly is either bacteria or fungi. 

Parasite vs Saprophyte

A parasite refers to an organism that lives another living organism, which is known as the host. It often harms the host and relies on them for getting nutrition. Without having a host, a parasite can’t grow, multiple, and live. A parasite rarely kills its host but can spread diseases, which can be fatal.

A saprophyte refers to 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, molds, and Corallorhiza orchids are some examples of saprophytes.

Comparison Table Between Parasite and Saprophyte

Parameters of ComparisonParasiteSaprophyte
DefinitionParasite refers to a living organism that depends on the host body for taking nutrition. The host must be a living organism.     A saprophytes refers to a living organism that depends on decaying or dead matter for getting nutrition.
HabitatA parasite can be found in plants, humans, and any other animals.     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.
HarmfulnessGenerally, a parasite never kills its host, but it can spread diseases, and sometimes the disease can be fatal.    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 generally smaller than its host and absorbs all the nutrients through a haustorium. 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 (example- mosquitoes) live in the host (example- tapeworms), or on the host (example- lice). A parasite usually doesn’t kill its host as it takes nutrients from the host, but it 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 (example- fleas) or sucker-type mouthparts (example- leeches) for getting nutrients from the host body. 

Many invertebrate groups have parasitic members. Some of the common parasites are parasitic mites, fleas, ticks, some parasitic flies (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 of the parasites live inside the host (example- endoparasites) while some of them live on the host (example- ectoparasites).

What is Saprophyte?

A saprophyte refers to a heterotrophic organism that relies on decaying or dead matter for its survival. Saprophytes are generally found in animals or plants. Saprophyte is also called decomposer as it feeds on the decaying or dead organism or matter. Some of the well-known saprophytes are mushrooms, molds, 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. These matters or substances are taken by several plants for helping different types of activities.  

As a saprophyte is found only in animals and plants, it doesn’t need any medications. 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 very 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 the feeding process, it breaks down decomposed organic matter left behind by other dead plants and organisms. In this feeding process, several essential materials are left behind which eventually becomes soil.

Main Differences Between Parasite and Saprophyte 

  1. 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.

Conclusion

Both of these organisms can’t make food on their own; they need to rely on others to get nutrients. A parasite lives in another living organism, known as the host, and takes all the nutrients substances for its survival. A saprophyte, on the other hand, is the living organ that takes its nutrients from decaying or dead matters. 

Both of these organisms secret enzymes for absorbing simple nutrient forms and digesting dead organic matter. A parasite is entirely dependent on its host for taking nutrients. As a result, a parasite can harm both animals and plants by spreading fatal diseases. A saprophyte, on the other hand, plays a vital role in the environment and the ecosystem.

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
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