Are you confused between a Prawn and a Shrimp?
Many consumers and restaurants use the terms “shrimp” and “prawns” interchangeably. Even in commercial farming and fisheries the terms shrimp and prawn are often used interchangeably.
Terminology also varies from nation to nation, which can make matters even more confusing. In European countries, particularly the United Kingdom, the word “prawns” is more commonly on menus than the term “shrimp”, which is used more often in North America.
The term 'prawn' is also loosely used to describe any large shrimp, especially those that come 15 (or fewer) to the pound (also called “king prawns”, but also “jumbo shrimp”).
Australia and other Commonwealth countries as well as South Africa follow this European/British terminology to a greater extent, using the word 'prawn' almost exclusively.
According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations, terminology is based on the habitat. According to this, shrimp is a seawater creature, while prawn's natural habitat is fresh water.
Some people say that the difference is just in the size. ‘Shrimp’ is used to describe the smaller variety, whilst ‘Prawn’ is used to name the larger members of both species.
In biological terms, Shrimps and Prawns are Decapod Crustaceans, which means that they have 10 legs and a hard shell covering their body, although the shell that covers prawns and shrimps is much thinner and not as hard as the shell of most other crustaceans. They have to shed their shells in order to grow bigger. There are some biological differences between Prawns and Shrimps, due to which they two are placed in different suborders. Prawns are in the suborder Dendobranchiata, while shrimp are classified as Pleocyemata.
They both can be found in salt and fresh water all over the world, typically swimming in search of food. Both shrimp and prawns tend to stay near the ocean floor. They also have similar flavors, and come in a wide range of sizes from minuscule to quite large.
Difference between a Shrimp and a Prawn:
So now we know that shrimp and prawns are closely related, but there are a few distinguishing features which divide the two.
The Prawn is transparent with long legs and is found amongst the weed in rock pools on the shore. There are several different species. In the South and West the species in the pools are called by the scientific name of Palaemon.
The Shrimp is the sandy colored crustacean that lives in the sandy shallows. It has short legs and buries itself in the sand. It is called by the scientific name of Crangon and is found all around the British coast.
Some of the biological differences between prawns and shrimps are mentioned below:
1. Gill structure: Prawns have a branching gill structure, whilst the shrimps have lamellar gill structure.
2. Size of legs: Prawn’s legs are longer than shrimp’s legs.
3. Pincers: The front pincers of shrimp are typically the largest, while prawns have bigger second pincers. These differences may seem subtle, but they indicate different steps along the evolutionary path of both creatures.
4. Second Abdominal Segment: The easiest practical way to separate true shrimps from true prawns is to examine their second abdominal segments. The second segment of a shrimp overlaps both the first and the third segment, while the second segment of a prawn overlaps only the third segment.
5. Body Size: Culinarily, many people distinguish between shrimp and prawns on the basis of size. Prawns are considered to be larger, while shrimp are smaller.
6. There is also a difference in the way that the two brood their eggs. A more fundamental difference but one impossible to appreciate in a single specimen is that female prawns do not brood eggs but shed them into the currents where they develop independently.
Interesting fact about Prawns and Shrimps:
Prawns and Shrimp are protandric hermaphrodites, that is, they undergo a change of sex in mid-life, starting out as males and then becoming females in their fourth and final year of life.