Among the bounty of creatures living in the world’s oceans, shrimp are perhaps the most widely known marine crustacea. Shrimp exist in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes, and colors. They comprise 2,000 species and are found in deep ocean waters, shallow tidal waters, and freshwater, in every region of every continent but Antarctica. They are tiny, intriguing creatures living on the bottom of the oceans and play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the sea.
Photo of a Mantis Shrimp
There are thousands of shrimp species around the world.
Shrimp are primarily swimmers, not crawlers.
Size varies considerably by species.
Shrimp aren’t always so, well, ‘shrimpy’. While small shrimp are usually around ½ an inch in length (from head to tail), some varieties can grow to be 12 inches or longer. The tiger shrimp, an invasive species in the Gulf, can grow to be roughly the length of an adult’s forearm and has more tail meat than the average lobster.
Shrimp are excellent swimmers.
One of the fun facts about shrimp that you might not know is that these arthropods are actually quite good at swimming. They can propel themselves backwards quickly by flexing the muscles of their abdomen and tail, or swim forward more slowly using the appendages on the underside of their tail.
Some shrimp can loudly snap their pincers.
The ocean may look peaceful, but it can get pretty noisy below the surface when there are snapping shrimp around. Certain shrimp species are able to make a snapping sound that is louder than any other marine noise by hitting their large and small pincers together. It’s believed they do this to communicate with other shrimp or temporarily stun their prey.
Shrimp are omnivorous.
Shrimp typically consume microscopic plant and animal matter by filtering the water around them or sifting through the ocean floor. Certain types of shrimp also catch and eat small fish.
Shrimp are an important part of their ecosystem.
Shrimp are an important source of food for many crabs, fish, sea urchins, whales, dolphins, and seabirds. Some species of shrimp also have a symbiotic relationship with fish and clean parasites, bacteria, and fungi off their host.
Shrimp contain a cancer-fighting mineral.
You’ll want to keep this shrimp information in mind: if the small crustacean is a part of your diet, it may reduce your risk of developing cancer. That’s because shrimp contain selenium, an antioxidant mineral that activates enzymes to fight the growth of cancer-causing free radicals.
Shrimp exist in a dazzling array of shapes, sizes, and colors. They comprise 2,000 species and are found in deep ocean waters, shallow tidal waters, and freshwater, in every region of every continent but Antarctica.
They are arthropods—the shelled, segmented phylum that includes all insects, arachnids, and crustaceans. More specifically, shrimp are part of the order Decapoda. All decapods have ten legs, a trait shrimps share with their cousins—crabs and lobsters.
Large shrimp are often called prawns, and vice versa. While they look very much alike, shrimp are more closely related to crabs and lobsters than they are to prawns. Prawns differ in that they have three pairs of pincers rather than a shrimp’s two, they don’t have a pronounced abdomen bend, and they don’t “brood” their eggs—females release them right into the water.
Shrimp are primarily swimmers, not crawlers.
“Cleaner shrimp” survive by eating parasites and dead tissue off of other creatures. Many of these shrimp species live in coral reefs, where they hang out at what biologists call “cleaning stations”— places where fish, sea turtles, and eels go to be nibbled clean.
Shrimp can breed only after a female molts. A male deposits sperm on a female’s underbelly. The female releases eggs (25,000 to a million at a time), which pass through the sperm and are fertilized. She carries the eggs on hairlike structures on her legs, where they’re protected by the shell that soon regrows. Weeks later, the tiny hatchlings are dispersed into the water.
While most shrimp species live from 9 to 18 months, some, such as the North Atlantic shrimp, live to eight years.
Different species of shrimp can vary in the appearance of their physical characteristics. However, the bodily characteristics of the decapod shrimp are extremely common throughout the 2,000 different types currently known to exist.
Their bodies are divided into two parts: the thorax and the head. The two components are connected by the cephalothorax and a narrow abdomen. The body itself is protected by a hard shell known as the carapace. The mouth of the shrimp works in conjunction with its gills. Guarded by the hard exterior shell, the gills allow it to derive oxygen from the surrounding waters.
Its legs, eyes, and rostrum also grow out of their hard shell. In order to protect themselves from predators, shrimp possess a sharp beak or nose, called the rostrum, that extends off the head of their body. This beak also serves as a stabilizer when swimming backwards and forwards in the water.
Like fish, shrimp primarily travel, breed, and eat in schools.
They can easily adapt to new conditions in the water, accounting for their vast numbers in every ocean on earth.
Because of their small size, it is advantageous for them to stay in groups in order to protect themselves from larger predators.
Their actual size is typically between 0.1 and 2 inches in length
Despite their stature, these creatures can still fall victim to microscopic parasites.
They often develop mutually beneficial relationships with sea cucumbers or sea slugs in order to remove any ectoparasites.
Within their schools, there is audio communication that occurs as well.
Snapping and clicking is thought to play a role in both how they socialize and how they intimidate other marine life.
A single female shrimp is capable of producing a large number of offspring.
One shrimp can lay up to one million eggs in a single session.
The eggs take only two weeks to hatch.
Once born, the baby shrimp merge with the plankton in the environment in order to protect and feed themselves
until they are large enough to hunt in groups for larger particles for nourishment.
The large number of offspring is vital in allowing the species to flourish due to their short life-span.
The average shrimp will only live for one to two years.
Being an extremely versatile species, shrimp are able to thrive beneath the surface of any body of water as long as there is ample food.
They can survive in both freshwater and saltwater conditions.
These invertebrates tend to congregate in the largest numbers near coastal regions and in estuaries where the food supply is plentiful.
The type of species that is present in any location is typically specific to that region and adapted for the particular surroundings.
The majority of shrimp are marine creatures while a quarter of the shrimp population is found in freshwater sources. Shrimp can survive in waters that are up to 16,000 feet deep.
Sources: Original Oysterhouse, Whalefacts.org, wwwportablepress.com