The Shrimp vs. Prawn Debate
In the Shrimp vs. Prawn debate, many people have the understanding that shrimp and prawns are one in the same. However, this is truly not the case. What you should understand is that shrimp and prawn are common names, not scientific terms.
Crustacean taxonomist Tin-Yam Chan explains, “The terms shrimp and prawn have no definite reference to any known taxonomic groups. Although the term shrimp is sometimes applied to smaller species, while prawn is more often used for larger forms, there is no clear distinction between both terms and their usage is often confused or even reverse in different countries or regions.”
In today’s age, the terms shrimp and prawn have become almost interchangeable. Many people believe shrimp are smaller than prawns, which makes size a contributing factor to which is which. Just because a product is called a “prawn,” does not mean it is a prawn. It could just be a larger sized shrimp, such as a U10 or U12 (learn more about sizes here).
If that is not confusing enough, shrimp and prawns are both decapod crustaceans (which means, each has an exoskeleton) and have 10 legs. They each can be found in both saltwater and freshwater, and are found near sea floors. This begs the question, what sets each species apart?
Here is a breakdown of their differences:
- Contain branching gills – these are a side plate that overlays segments in the front and back.
- Often smaller in size – legs with claws on two pairs.
- Carry eggs outside their bodies and below their tails, or on the underside of their body.
- Saltwater penaeids.
- Have a distinctive bend in their body shape.
- Classification: sub-order of Pleocyemata.
- Pinchers: Front pinchers are the largest.
- Notable types: White Leg Shrimp, Pink Shrimp, Brown Shrimp and Atlantic White Shrimp.
- More commonly found on North American menus.
- Contain lamellar (plate-like) gills – these are side plates that overlap.
- Typically larger in size – legs with claws on three pairs.
- Carry eggs inside their bodies, located near their tails. They release the eggs into the water.
- Does not have a distinctive bend in their body shape.
- Freshwater palaemonids.
- Classification: sub-order of Dendrobranchiata.
- Pinchers: Second pinchers are larger than the front ones.
- Notable types: Indian Prawn, Giant River Prawn, and Tiger Prawn.
- Usually sweeter in taste.
- More commonly found on menus in the United Kingdom, as well as countries such as Australia.
The biggest takeaway from the shrimp vs. prawn dispute is that they have different gill structures. As noted above, prawns have lamellar gills, which are plate-like. Conversely, shrimp have branching-style gills that overlap. We hope this article cleared up some of your confusion.
The American Shrimp Company is proud to only sell 100% wild caught American shrimp, not prawns. To purchase or learn more about our categories and shrimp, please visit our online shop.