In this week's Ask Asta, we will explore Andrew's question;
"What's the difference between shrimp and prawns, and how can you tell them apart?"
Read on to find out!
In the infamous movie Forrest Gump, Bubba said it best;" Shrimp is the fruit of the sea!"
But what about prawns? How do they compare?
This plate contains bite-sized, firm and tender morsels of undersea deliciousness.
Imagine this has just been delivered to your table at a nice restaurant.
I'll let you devour it, after you answer one simple question:
Are these shrimp, or prawns?
Why, you say, does that matter? Also, you say, why is Asta torturing me with food?
Because we're imagining, silly.
So, what's your answer?
Did you say that this was a lovely plate of Garlic grilled shrimp? Because if you did, you'd be wrong.
Depending on which country you're standing in.
Have I confused you yet?
Let me explain.
Shrimp and Prawns are both types of invertebrate, meaning they have no backbone and use a hard outer shell to protect them and keep their bodies enclosed.
Shrimps and prawns are also both considered to be Crustaceans (from the Latin root crustaceus, "having a crust or shell,"). Crustaceans are a subgroup of invertebrates which share the characteristics of a hard outer shell, or exoskeleton, segmented bodies, and paired appendages (arms and legs).
Both shrimp and prawns grow via a process known as molting, or ecdysis, in which the outer shell is removed and then replaced with a new one whenever the animal begins a growth cycle.
Shrimp and prawns are also both considered to be decapods. The roots of the word are deca, meaning 10, and poda, which refers to appendages, (or more specifically, feet). Both shrimp and prawns exhibit pairs of swimming, walking and foraging appendages which give these animals bilateral symmetry (meaning when the body is cut in half along a vertical axis, the sides of the body appear as mirror images, much like our own bodies.)
Shrimp and Prawns can be found throughout the world, in both fresh and salt water conditions. Both are opportunistic scavengers, meaning they generally eat what can be stirred up off the sea or pond bottom.Their early diet includes zooplankton, phytoplankton and algae, and dead organic materials. Later in life, both types of decapod scavenge some dead and some living organic material, such as decaying plants, fish, clams, and even other shrimp.
Both groups use special chemosensory antennae structures located on the tops of their heads to help them detect the chemical signature of food particles and to help them locate them.
The reason that a lot of people have trouble differentiating between this organisms has to do with the prevalence of the use of the common names, "shrimp" and "prawn". The terms have been used interchangeably in many fishing communities, as the similarities between these organisms are very obvious, and to the common eye, the differences are pretty minor.
In the United Kingdom, Australia, and other primarily English speaking countries, "Prawn" is used to refer to either shrimp or prawns, whereas in the United States and Canada, the word "Shrimp" is used more commonly for both.
This is why science nerds worldwide use latin names when communicating, to ensure they really are talking about the same organisms.
So there you have it! If you're having a nice seafood dinner in Wales, UK, it might be prawns on your plate, but the same meal could be a shrimp dish in Vancouver, BC!
Stay tuned to learn more about how shrimp and prawns are harvested, farmed and brought to your dinner table!
Bauer, R.T. "Research on the Biology of Shrimps and Marine Habitats". Accessed online, November 4, 2017. http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~rtb6933/shrimp/index.html
Diffen.com. "Prawn vs. Shrimp". Accessed online November 2, 2017.
Shaikh, F. July 26, 2017. "Prawn vs Shrimp: Know the Difference between Shrimp and Prawn." Foodsforbetterhealth.com. Accessed November 5, 2017.
Haekel, E. Kunstformen der Natur (1904), plate 86: Decapoda.
Watson, M. October 23, 2017. "What's the Difference between Shrimp and Prawns?" The spruce.com. Accessed online November 7, 2017.
Zwicky, A. November 11, 2011. "Rock Shrimp". Accessed online, November 17, 2017.
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