Decay and Decomposition
When living things, both plants and animals, die, the process of decomposition begins. This means that they are broken down, often very quickly, into much simpler substances and dispersed into the environment by other living things that use the decaying organism as a source of food. These other living things are known as decomposers and produce enzymes (proteins which act as catalysts in chemical reactions) that digest the dead material and provide food for the decomposer. This process is called decay. When an animal dies, other living things such as maggots (the larvae of flies) act as decomposers and begin to feed on the decomposing body. When the decomposing material has been broken down sufficiently much smaller organisms, such as bacteria and fungi begin to work it. The whole decomposition process therefore is also part of food chains and webs, in that these decomposing plants and animals provide food for other living things, which in turn will be a source of food for something else.