The term shrimp is used to refer to some decapod crustaceans.
There are over 2,000 species of shrimps.
Shrimp are widespread, and can be found near the seafloor of most coasts and estuaries, as well as in rivers and lakes.
They usually live from 1 to 7 years.
There are some very long lived shrimp species, such as the ope ula (Hawaiian Red Shrimp). This shrimp can live beyond 20 years in captivity.
Shrimp range in length from a few millimeters to more than 20 centimeters (about 8 inches); average size is about 4 to 8 centimeters (1.5 to 3 inches).
They are characterized by a body that is compressed from side to side, long antennae and legs, thin and semitransparent exoskeleton, lamellar gills, and fan-like tail.
The color of a shrimp is influenced by its natural habitat. Some subspecies are able to change color to fit in with surroundings. Shrimp in tropical and sub-tropical habitats are brightly colored. Others are transparent so that predators have a difficult time spotting them. Brown and green shrimp are found in muddy river beds.
They swim forward by paddling with swimmerets on the underside of their abdomens, although their escape response is typically repeated flicks with the tail driving them backwards very quickly.
Most shrimp are omnivorous. Their food consists mostly of small plants and animals; some shrimp species feed on carrion.
Despite having very small brains, shrimp actually show rather complex behaviors. According to MSN Encarta, the cleaner shrimp feed on dead scales and parasites from the skin of living fish. However, the interesting part is not what they eat, but how they do it. Cleaner shrimp are known to participate in a stylized dance that attracts other fish to come close enough so that the shrimp can feed on it, or “clean” the other fish. Sometimes these fish are over twice the size of the shrimp feeding on it.
The female shrimp may lay from 1,500 to 14,000 eggs, which are attached to the swimming legs. The swimming larvae pass through five developmental stages before becoming juveniles.
Shrimps play important roles in the food chain and are important food sources for larger animals from fish to whales.
The muscular tails of many shrimp are edible to humans, and they are widely caught and farmed for human consumption.
Commercial shrimp species support an industry worth 50 billion dollars a year.
Shrimp have high levels of omega-3 fatty acids and low levels of mercury. As with other seafood, shrimp is high in calcium, iodine and protein but low in food energy.
In North America, indigenous peoples of the Americas captured shrimp and other crustaceans in fishing weirs and traps made from branches and Spanish moss, or used nets woven with fibre beaten from plants. At the same time early European settlers, oblivious to the “protein-rich coasts” all about them, starved from lack of protein.
In 1735, beach seines were imported from France, and Cajun fishermen in Louisiana started catching white shrimp and drying them in the sun, as they still do today.
Shrimp is the most popular seafood eaten in the United States. It represents over 25 percent of the nation’s annual per capita seafood consumption. This calculation indicates that the average consumer eats 4 pounds of shrimp per year.
Various coastal settlements in the United States have claimed the title “Shrimp Capital of the World.” For example, the claim was made earlier in the nineteenth century for the Port of Brunswick in Georgia, and Fernandina and Saint Augustine in Florida. More recent claims have been made for Aransas Pass and Brownsville in Texas, as well as Morgan City in Louisiana. The claim has also been made for Mazatlán in Mexico.
Several types of shrimp are kept in home aquaria. Some are purely ornamental, while others are useful in controlling algae and removing debris.
The terms shrimp and prawn are common names, not scientific names.
Their close relatives include crabs, crayfish, and lobsters.