Shrimps belong to the order of Decapod crustaceans. They have elongated bodies and long antennae, which are distinguishing features. These shrimp facts will discuss their important role in marine ecosystems and why they are highly abundant.
One important fact about shrimp is their role in the marine food chain. Many shrimp species are scavengers, meaning they consume carcasses and decaying matter. On the other hand, the cleaner shrimp helps fishes, turtles, and other marine animals get rid of parasites by consuming them.
10 Interesting Facts About Shrimps
1. Shrimps have multiple pairs of legs.
Shrimps are small swimming crustaceans that are closely related to crabs and lobsters. They have a segmented body, multiple pairs of legs, a strong outer shell for protection, and large and small pincers.
A shrimp's size varies greatly depending on the species. Small shrimp, or the type you're accustomed to seeing, measures about half an inch long from head to tail. However, some species can grow to a whopping 12 inches or longer.
One of the most interesting facts about shrimp is that the Tiger Shrimp is known for its large size. Tiger shrimp, also known as the giant tiger prawn, can grow to an adult's forearm length and has more tail meat than the average lobster.
2. There are a lot of shrimp species.
Over 2,000 species of shrimp live worldwide and in every known marine niche, from the tropics to the Antarctic Ocean. While most shrimps are marine creatures that make their home in the vast expanses of the sea, a significant 25% of the global shrimp population surprisingly thrives in inland freshwater environments.
For example, the Gulf Pink Shrimp is known for its pink coloration and is one of the most commercially important shrimps in the Gulf of Mexico. Meanwhile, the Gulf White Shrimp is highly sought after for its delicious taste and large size. It possesses a pale white to grayish body coloration and lives in estuaries and coastal areas throughout the Gulf region.
The Gulf Brown Shrimp has a brownish coloration and is another commercially significant species in the Gulf of Mexico. And lastly, the Snapping Shrimp produces powerful shockwaves louder than other marine noises by snapping this oversized claw.
Read more: Types of Shrimp.
3. Shrimp are omnivores.
Shrimps have diverse dietary habits. They use various feeding techniques to obtain their food. Filtering the water is a common method, where they extract microscopic plant and animal matter from the surrounding environment. They also scavenge for food by sifting through the ocean floor.
While wild shrimp eat organic material such as algae and seaweed, they are also opportunistic predators. Certain species of shrimps actively hunt and eat small fish, plankton, and worms, adding to their diet.
Want to read about another omnivorous marine animal? Go check out our fish facts!
4. They can produce thousands of eggs.
One fascinating shrimp fact is that shrimps display complex behaviors despite having tiny brains. During the mating season, male shrimps often engage in courtship behaviors to attract females. Once a female is receptive to mating, she releases pheromones to signal her readiness.
Generally, a female shrimp can produce anywhere from a few hundred to several thousand eggs in a single reproductive cycle.
5. Shrimp larvae molt while they grow.
Shrimp larvae, during the planktonic stage, are small and transparent, resembling mini adult shrimp. They float in the water, carried by ocean currents. During this stage, they mainly eat microscopic plankton and other tiny organisms.
As the shrimp larvae grow, they molt multiple times, shedding their outer covering and growing a new, bigger one. Each molt represents a new developmental stage.
6. Many shrimp can live for 1-6 years.
The average lifespan of a shrimp is relatively short, typically ranging from 9 to 18 months. But a certain shrimp species, the North Atlantic Shrimp, enjoys a comparatively longer lifespan, with individuals living up to 8 years.
Also known as the cold-water or deep-sea shrimp (Pandalus borealis), the North Atlantic shrimp inhabits cold, deep-water environments, where it experiences a relatively stable and less variable habitat than other shrimp.
Shrimps face danger from a broad range of predators, including but not limited to various breeds of fish, crabs, sea urchins, sea birds, and even humans.
7. They clean fish.
Did you know that shrimps are the ocean's best clean-up crew? A group called cleaner shrimp feeds on parasites and dead tissues of fish3. When a fish or another marine creature seeks to rid itself of parasites or unwanted debris, it signals the shrimp with a series of specific movements, indicating its desire for a cleaning session.
Using their dexterous pincers, shrimps delicately remove parasites and exfoliate dead skin from the scales of these marine animals. They also clean the oral cavity and gills because the hosts will not eat them.
8. They have two powerful claws.
Shrimps possess specialized appendages called claws or pincers, which play a crucial role in their survival, feeding, and defense mechanisms2. Shrimp claws are typically asymmetrical, consisting of a larger, stronger claw known as the crusher claw or chela and a smaller, more dexterous claw called the cutter claw or pincer.
The crusher claw is used for exerting force, crushing prey, and defending against predators, while the cutter claw is used for more delicate tasks such as manipulating food items.
9. Humans have eaten shrimp since 600 AD.
Humans have been eating shrimp for centuries; historical evidence suggests that humans have eaten shrimp since around 600 AD. This long-standing tradition shows shrimp is a famous food source1.
Belying their small size, the mighty shrimp has a huge impact on our diets, with global shrimp consumption amounting to 9 million metric tons annually.
The proliferation of shrimp farms is driving this boom in shrimp consumption. A shrimp farm can produce an excess of 20,000 pounds of this popular crustacean per acre each year,
Shrimp can be consumed in various ways, including raw preparations like sushi and sashimi, where its delicate flavor and texture are highly regarded. However, it is important to note that raw shrimp has a shorter shelf life, so handling and consuming it promptly is best.
Consuming raw or frozen shrimp can pose health risks, including the possibility of food poisoning. These crustaceans may contain harmful bacteria, viruses, and parasites, such as Salmonella, E. coli, Vibrio, and Bacillus, all common causes of foodborne illnesses and can be found in raw shrimp.
10. Shrimps are vulnerable.
Shrimp populations are vulnerable to overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, climate change, and bycatch. Overfishing can lead to declines in shrimp populations and disrupt the delicate balance of marine ecosystems.
It is crucial to prioritize the preservation and restoration of their critical habitats. Protecting shrimp populations involves safeguarding estuaries, mangroves, salt marshes, and seagrass beds.
By addressing these threats and implementing measures to mitigate their impacts, we can work towards conserving shrimp populations and maintaining the overall health of marine ecosystems.
We hope you enjoyed this list of interesting facts about shrimps!
Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with S.
Stentiford, G. D., et al (2012). Disease will limit future food supply from the global crustacean fishery and aquaculture sectors. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology, 110(2), 141–157.
Versluis, M., Schmitz, B., Von Der Heydt, A., & Lohse, D. (2000). How Snapping Shrimp Snap: Through Cavitating Bubbles. Science, 289(5487), 2114–2117.
Grutter, A. S. (2002). Cleaning symbioses from the parasites’ perspective. Parasitology, 124(7), 65–81.