These unusual looking animals are a common sight for most people, even if they don’t think about how often they appear in the world around them. The movie Forrest Gump and the restaurant Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. are synonymous with shrimping. Shrimp can be found in dishes from most cultures and the shells are even used in dyes. A material found in shrimp and insect shells, chitosan, can be used to make a biodegradable plastic that may one day replace the petroleum based plastics used today. Most shrimp shells currently are discarded, although some are used in cosmetics, fertilizers, and dietary supplements. Shrimp fishing has become a billion dollar business across the world, but many in the industry are beginning to turn to farming instead. Shrimping has the worst bycatch numbers for any fishery and the practice of farming avoids that.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom – Animalia
Phylum – Arthropoda
Class – Crustacea
Order – Decapoda
Family – Caridea
Common Names – shrimp, prawn (although shrimp and prawn are sometimes considered to be slightly different)
Shrimp can be so tiny that they cannot be seen with the naked eye or, as is the case with black tiger shrimp, they can weigh almost a pound. There are over two thousand species of shrimp and they are found in nearly any type of waterway, both fresh and salt water. While shrimp are crustaceans, they are different from most of their relatives (except the prawn) in that they do not live on the bottom and swim in open water. The brine shrimp (commonly called sea monkeys) and fairy shrimp are regularly seen, but they are not true decapod shrimp.
A female will produce between 500,000-1,000,000 eggs per clutch, but only a fraction of those will survive to a breeding age. The hatchlings become plankton, beholden to the currents and tides, until they are large enough to swim on their own.
Shrimp have little by way of defenses and tend to flee or hide from danger. The aggressive and extraordinarily powerful mantis shrimp are not actual shrimp but are instead a relative. Unlike the heavily armored bottom dwelling lobster and crab, shrimp have delicate legs that are designed for swimming. Shrimp are omnivores and will eat anything digestible that they find. They are themselves prey animals to nearly all aquatic life as well as birds and humans.
The earliest shrimp fossil was found in Oklahoma and dates from the Devonian period and could date from 360 million years ago. The ancestry of the decapod order is still unknown previous to that time, but it probably dates much earlier.
There are some concerns with the Gulf shrimp species, especially those that are being found with deformities such as missing eyes. These, as well as other deformities found in crustaceans, might be attributable to the BP oil spill of 2010.
Crabs and Shrimps of the Pacific Coast: A Guide to Shallow-Water Decapods from Southeastern Alaska to the Mexican Border by Gregory C. Jensen
Shrimp Culture: Economics, Market, and Trade (World Aquaculture Society Book series) by PingSun Leung, Carole R Engle
Shrimp Farming: economic And Prospect For Water Enhancement Product: Economics, Technical Efficacy Of Shrimp Farming And Water Quality Enhancement Product In Shrimp Pond by Nakul A. Sadafule, Nakhawa Ajay D., Shyam S. Salim
Shrimp: Evolutionary History, Ecological Significance and Effects on Dietary Consumption Editors: Carmel A. Delaney
Pacific Coast Crabs and Shrimps by Gregory C. Jensen
Journal of Crustacean Biology (30(4):629-635. 2010) Published by: The Crustacean Society