Click Here to Print This Page
Click Here to Send This Page to a Friend
Click Here to Get on the Mailing List for All Shrimp News Announcements

Farmed Species

Identification Guides
The Crustacea

The Classification of Penaied Shrimp
Penaeus vannamei May Get Its Name Back
Penaeus vannamei Gets Its Name Back
When Shrimp Ruled the World

To SEARCH this page, hit Control-F
To find the next occurrence of your search, hit Control-G.

Top of Page

Thousands of species of shrimp inhabit the brackish and marine waters of the globe. Most are rare, very small, or not suitable for human consumption. All farm-raised shrimp and most of the shrimp caught by fishermen belong to the Penaeidae family of decapod crustaceans and are referred to as "penaeids". The genus name is Penaeus. In 2006, the giant tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) and the western white shrimp (Penaeus vannamei) probably accounted for approximately 90% of the shrimp produced on farms around the world.

Western White Shrimp
(Penaeus vannamei): Native to the Pacific coast of Central and South America (from Mexico to Peru), P. vannamei is the leading farm-raised species in the Western Hemisphere, representing more than 99% of production. White shrimp can be stocked at small sizes, have a uniform growth rate and reach a maximum length of 230 millimeters. They breed in captivity better than monodon, but not as readily as many of the other penaeids (below). Hatchery survivals are high, from 50 to 60%. Throughout Latin America, hatcheries maintain captive stocks of vannamei broodstock, some of them pathogen-free, some of them pathogen-resistant and some of them in captivity for 30 years. Farmers throughout Asia are switching to vannamei, and it has now become the dominant species around he world.  Most of the major shrimp farming countries in Asia have established breeding centers for vannamei, and they are expected to do the same thing for monodon.

In Chapter Ten of "Shrimp—The Endless Quest for Pink Gold", the authors reveal how good old Penaeus vannamei got its name:

"Years before farmers discovered Penaeus vannamei, a zoologist named Willard Gibbs Vanname had collected the first specimen. The Yale professor was best known for his definitive monograph on sea squirts, his work with terrestrial and freshwater isopods and his work in ornithology. In the obscure world of museum curators and carcinologists (those who study shrimp, crabs and lobsters), history records that on March 25, 1926, Dr. Vanname purchased a male white shrimp in the fish markets of Panama City, Panama, and pickled it for the American Museum of Natural History collection, where he was curator of marine invertebrates. There it sat for five years, having turned red in the jar of alcohol, until a staff biologist at the museum, Miss Pearl Lee Boone, described it as a new species. Apparently she admired Dr. Vanname, so she named it vannamei after him. She declared it to be the analog of the North American white shrimp, Litopenaeus (= Penaeus) setiferus, that Linnaeus had described two centuries earlier. Her paper went on to detail the spine and eyestalks and measured its legs, pinchers and male sexual organs."

Giant Tiger Shrimp (Penaeus monodon): Named for its huge size and banded tail, P. monodon accounts for about a quarter of the farmed shrimp coming out of Asia. Native to the Indian Ocean and the southwestern Pacific Ocean from Japan to Australia, "tigers" are the largest (maximum length 363 millimeters) and fastest growing of the farmed shrimp. They tolerate a wide range of salinities, but shortages of wild broodstock often exist, captive breeding is difficult and hatchery survivals are low (20 to 30%). Tigers are very susceptible to two of the most lethal shrimp viruses: yellowhead and whitespot. 
Specific pathogen free broodstock and postlarvae began appearing on the market in 2009, primarily in Vietnam and India.

Western Blue Shrimp
(Penaeus stylirostris): Native to the Pacific coast of Central and South America (from Mexico to Peru), western blue shrimp were a popular farmed species in the Western Hemisphere until the late 1980s when the IHHN virus attacked them but not vannamei. Fortunately, captive stocks of stylirostris were maintained at several locations around the world. Through selective breeding, these stocks developed resistance to the IHHN virus.

From 1992 to 1997, when vannamei
stocks everywhere in the western hemisphere were being devastated by the Taura virus, shrimp farmers took a second look at "stylies" and found that some of the captive stocks were resistant to IHHN and Taura! Consequently, in 1997, stylies made a comeback on farms throughout the western hemisphere, especially in Mexico. Fast growers, stylies look a lot like vannamei and have similar cultural requirements. They tolerate significantly lower water temperatures than vannamei, but prefer higher oxygen levels, turbidity, salinities and protein levels. Stylies are aggressive feeders and will roam around the pond looking for feed. They like deep ponds and high water quality. Shipment of stylie broodstock and seedstock is difficult, and stylies are more intent on escaping from ponds than are vannamei.

Although stylirostris
farming has declined dramatically in the Western Hemisphere, the South Pacific nation of New Caledonia farms it exclusively and has its own strain that has been maintained in captivity for thirty years.

Red, White and Blue Shrimp:
From the consumer's point of view, stylirostris and vannamei are nearly identical and can be mixed together and sold as western white shrimp.

At the Fourth Latin American Aquaculture Congress and Exhibition (Panama, October 2000), Shrimp News asked Bill More (, one of the founders of shrimp farming in the Western Hemisphere, about the distribution of the penaeids along the western coast of Latin America. More said:

Shrimp caught off the northern, Pacific coast of Mexico are primarily P. californensis; those caught off the southern Pacific coast are probably vannamei or stylirostris. Vannamei peaks in Nicaragua where it represents approximately 70% of the catch.

Off Ecuador, vannamei
represents around 20% of the catch, and occidentalis and stylirostris probably represent 30% each. In Peru, occidentalis begins to disappear and you get more vannamei and stylirostris. Stylirostris is more abundant than vannamei in every country with the exception of Nicaragua. Vannamei lives on different types of bottoms than occidentalis and stylirostris.

Chinese White Shrimp
(Penaeus chinensis, also known as P. orientalis): Native to the coast of China and the west coast of the Korean peninsula, Chinese white shrimp grow better in lower water temperatures (down to 16 degrees Celsius) than vannamei and monodon, tolerate muddy bottoms and very low salinities—and, unlike the above species, Chinese white shrimp readily mature and spawn in ponds. On the negative side, they have a high protein requirement (40 to 60%), a small size (maximum length of 183 millimeters), and a lower meat yield (56%) than monodon (61%) and vannamei (63%). Also, chinensis appears to be more susceptible to viruses than vannamei, which is replacing it in southern China and on Hainan Island.

Japanese Kuruma Shrimp
(Penaeus japonicus): Native to the Indian Ocean and the Southwestern Pacific Ocean from Japan to Australia, kuruma shrimp are farmed in Japan and Australia. Live kuruma shrimp bring outrageously high prices in Japan, as high as $100 a pound! It's relatively easy to ship live animals without water, they mature and spawn in ponds, and they tolerate low water temperatures better than any other farmed species, down to 10 degrees Celsius. They require clean, sandy bottoms and high protein diets (55%). Markets are limited to Japan. Australia has a few farms that export japonicus to Japan.

Indian White Shrimp
(Penaeus indicus): Indicus is raised on extensive farms throughout Southeast Asia, and it is widely cultured in India, the Middle East and eastern Africa. It tolerates low water quality better than monodon, it likes high salinities, high temperatures and high densities, and it is readily available in the wild. Indicus also reaches sexual maturity and spawns in ponds. Iranian shrimp farms produces more indicus than any other country.

Native to the Indian Ocean from southern Africa to northern Australia and to all of Southeast Asia, indicus
is one of the major species in the region's commercial fishery. It is the most important species caught off the east coast of Africa and is probably the most important commercial species in India, especially in the inshore fishery and in the rice field farming around Kerala.

On September 9, 2001, Michel Autrand (, one of the pioneers of shrimp farming in New Caledonia, responding to a question on the Shrimp List
, a mailing list for shrimp farmers (, said:

I started working with indicus
in 1975, in New Caledonia. More recently, I have worked with them in Madagascar. Growth up to 14-15 grams is good between 24 and 32°C, but slow below 24°C, except at very low densities (less than two animals per square meter). Indicus continues to grow in high salinity waters up to 42 parts per thousand. I don't have experience with higher salinites, but, in Iran, I think salinities easily reach 45 ppt and more. Indicus seems to be less tolerant of low salinites than monodon. On a Madagascar farm, where salinities ranged between 0 and 2 ppt for two months, we had some monodon (20 per square meter) and indicus (2/m2) in the same high turbidity pond. Mortalities were much greater among the indicus.

Banana Shrimp (Penaeus merguiensis): Raised on extensive farms throughout Southeast Asia, merguiensis is a also a "white" shrimp that has attracted attention because it tolerates low water quality better than monodon,
it can be grown at high densities, and it is readily available in the wild. Native to the Indian Ocean from Oman to western Australia, to Southeast Asia from the Philippines to Indonesia, and to eastern Australia, merguiensis is heavily fished throughout its range, especially in Australia.

An article in the December 2001 issue of World Aquaculture ( reviewed merguiensis's prospects as a farmed species:

Wild-caught breeders are cheap compared to monodon. Each female yields between 100,000 and 200,000 eggs per spawn, which is relatively low, but the low price of broodstock more than compensates for this, and the larvae and postlarvae are much easier to convert to prepared feeds. More importantly, adults mature and spawn naturally in captivity.

Advantages: Easy larval rearing, survive well in extensive and semi-intensive ponds, tolerate a wide range of salinities and temperatures, low protein requirement, and minimal size variation

Disadvantages: slow growth rate, limited information on biology and culture, low survival in intensive ponds (not confirmed by research), die quickly at harvest, and no species-specific commercial feeds

Farmers in southeastern Queensland, Australia, were encouraged to stock their ponds with banana prawns and their results were good, with production of 5 tons per hectare. Postlarvae from pond-reared broodstock have been grown successfully to market size in five months. Observations show that banana shrimp grow much faster in tanks or ponds that are rich in detritus and algae.

Brown Tiger Shrimp
(Penaeus esculentus): Native to the west, north and east coasts of Australia, esculentus, the brown tiger shrimp, looks a lot like the giant tiger shrimp (monodon), only smaller and browner. Uniquely Australian, it is fished year-round and is often caught along with the green tiger shrimp (semisulcatus).

An aggressive detrital feeder, esculentus
has potential in bacterial-based systems.

The New Wave
, a special publication of the World Aquaculture Society (, contains an interesting report on the farming potential of esculentus by Sandy Keys and Peter Crocos, researchers in Australia. They conducted commercial growout trials, developed a special diet, optimized larval and juvenile rearing protocols and investigated protocols for zero-exchange production. Esculentus postlarvae were grown on a farm for commercial sale to Japanese and Australian markets in 1997 and 1999. Survival in the hatchery phase (egg to PL-15) was improved by reducing the rearing temperature from 28° to 26°C. Juvenile growth was promoted by the addition of structures conditioned with natural biota during the early growout phase. Three generations of viable progeny were produced from captive broodstock using techniques developed for japonicus.

The Atlantic White Shrimp (Penaeus setiferus): The Atlantic white shrimp can be found along the Atlantic coast of the USA from New Jersey to Florida and everywhere in the Gulf of Mexico.  It looks a lot like P. vannamei, but can easily be identified by its unique genitalia.  At full maturity, setiferus reaches 200 millimeters (7.9 inches).  It can’t compete with vannamei as a growout species, but because it’s native to the USA, it can be raised as bait and sold to recreational fishermen.


With the threat of wild setiferus being depleted in the Gulf of Mexico by commercial bait fishermen and a practically nonexistent live bait shrimp industry in South Carolina, the Waddell Mariculture Center is developing technology to supply live bait year-round.  The three-year project to raise a disease-free line of setiferus is being funded with a federal grant.  Al Stokes, manager of the Waddell Center and a wildlife biologist for the state Department of Natural Resources, said he hopes Waddell can pass the project on to the private sector when the grant expires in December 2008.


Bait shrimp are marketed at much smaller sizes (around six grams) than food shrimp.  Setiferus is more cold tolerant than vannamei, and in recirculating, greenhouse-enclosed, raceway systems, it can be grown at very high densities.


Supplying bait to more than nine million recreational saltwater fisherman each year has become a major industry in the USA that relies on the capture of wild shrimp.  Some states are concerned that the increasing demand for bait shrimp may not be sustainable and have already imposed new regulations on bait fishermen to protect the resource.


Bait shrimp hatcheries could operate year-round and provide stable prices and supplies to bait dealers, something they don’t have now.  Test markets indicate that hatchery-reared bait shrimp handle and perform well during transport, in the bait shop—and on the hook.

Freshwater Prawns (Macrobrachium spp.): World production of prawns is rising. The genus Macrobrachium, which includes about 200 species, almost all of which live in freshwater for at least part of their life cycle, is circumtropical and native to all continents except Europe. The favored species for farming has always been M. rosenbergii, sometimes called the "giant river prawn" or the "Malaysian prawn", but recently, China began culturing M. nipponense, a species native to Japan, Taiwan and Vietnam, which has also been introduced into Russia, the Philippines and Singapore. In India, some M. malcolsmonni are farmed. In the United States, there are several hundred small freshwater prawn farms that grow M. rosenbergii.

Beginning in 2000, freshwater prawns (defrosted shell-on tails) began showing up in USA grocery stors. They look a lot like giant tiger shrimp, but they're bigger, chunkier, lighter in color, and their shells are always on. In fact, if you look carefully at the second tail segment, you can easily distinguish prawns from shrimp. If the bottom part of the shell on the second tail segment overlaps the shell on the first and third segments, it's a freshwater prawn.

Prawns fight a lot and don't adapt well to high densities.

Identification Guides
Top of Page

An Illustrated Guide to Shrimp of the World: Authored by Claus Frimodt and Ian Doré in 1987, this 229-page, book contains information on identifying 70 commercially important shrimp species, including all the popular farm-raised species. Superbly indexed with common and scientific names, it's a handsome book and a standard reference. The heart of the book is a 140-page chapter containing color pictures, line drawings, maps, names and comments on 70 shrimp species. It discusses their color, flavor, edibility and commercial importance. The book also contains a short chapter on identifying shrimp, a great chapter on terms used in the shrimp industry and a brief closing chapter on specifications for processing shrimp. It's out-of-print but available on a CD in PDF format and comes with An Illustrated Guide to Lobsters of the World for $79. Information: Urner Barry Publications, Inc., P.O. Box 389, Toms River, NJ 08754 USA (phone 800-932-0617, fax 732-341-0891, email, webpage

Los Camarones Penaeoidea Bentónicos (Crustacea: Decapoda: Dendrobranchiata) del Pacífico Mexicano:
Mexico's Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, part of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, has published (in Spanish) two books that describe the shrimp species on the Pacific coast of Mexico. Authored by Michel E. Hendrickx, one book covers those species that live in the water column, while the other covers bottom dwelling species, including all the popular penaeid species used in farming. Titled Los Camarones Penaeoidea Bentónicos (Crustacea: Decapoda: Dendrobranchiata) del Pacífico Mexicano, it's a 157-page taxonomic key for identifying the various species. In addition to long descriptions of each species, it contains black-and-white line drawings of each species, detailed drawings of sex organs and other body parts used in identification, and maps which show where the animals were captured. Information: Michel Hendrickx, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Estación Mazatlán, Apartado Postal 811, 82000 Mazatlán, Sin., México (phone 52-69-852-845, fax 52-69-826-133, email

Crustacea Guide of the World
: Authored and published by Helmut Debelius, Crustacea Guide of the World contains over 1,000 color photographs of crustaceans—mostly lobsters, crabs and shrimps—in their natural habitats. It's primarily a book for divers and underwater naturalists, but anyone interested in shrimp will find it fascinating. About 50% of the photographs are of incredibly beautiful little tropical shrimp, many of which are highly valued in the aquarium trade—and some of which could be raised in backyard or garage-size farms!

Each photograph includes information on the location of the shot, the name of the photographer and the name of the species, along with notes on habitat, behavior and commercial value. Of the major farmed species, there are pictures of Penaeus monodon, P. japonicus
and P. stylirostris. Most of the photographs are 90 mm wide by 60 mm high, but some cover the full page, 150 mm by 230 mm. Printed on glossy paper, the 321-page guide is indexed and contains a list of references. Information: Crustacea Guide of the World ($44.95/USA). IKAN-Unterwasserarchiv (wholesalers and distributors only), Waldschulstrasse 166, 65933 Frankfurt, Germany (fax 49-69-383587, email Single copy sales in the United States: New World Publications (publications for divers), 1861 Cornell Road, Jacksonville, FL 32207 USA (phone 904-737-6558, fax 904-731-1188, webpage Single copy sales in Europe: Klaus Groh ( Single copy sales in Australia: Peter Stone ( Single copy sales in Japan: Junko Maruoka (

Genetic Structure in Penaeid Shrimp:
The January 2000 issue (V-31, N-1, P-95) of Aquaculture Research (address below) published a 25-page review of genetic diversity in penaeid shrimp. Four long tables summarize the research by species, location, type of genetic information collected and amount of genetic differentiation, altogether sixty citations. The discussion divides the penaeids into wild and farmed with comments on life history, geographic, genetic and temporal variation. The review also mentions management regimes and interactions of wild and farmed stocks. Information: J.A.H. Benzie, Australian Institute of Marine Science, PMB No. 3, Townsville MC 4810, Queensland, Australia; and Aquaculture Research, Blackwell Science, Ltd., Osney Mead, Oxford OX2 OEL, United Kingdom (phone 44-1865-206-206, fax 44-1865-721-205, webpage

Six Morphologically-Distinguishable Populations of Stylirostris:
Volume 137 (Numbers 5 & 6, Page 875) of Marine Biology contains a report titled "Identification of genetic populations of the Pacific blue shrimp Penaeus stylirostris of the Gulf of California, Mexico". The abstract says:

The authors found that six morphologically-distinguishable populations of stylirostris from different locations in the Gulf of California were genetically distinguishable. This raises the possibility—or probability—that stylirostris from different places will differ in their genetic suitability for aquaculture. The authors comment: "The finding that genetically discrete stocks of stylirostris can be found in a small portion of the geographic distribution range of the species, disagrees with the long-held perception that this resource is panmictic in nature." Information: Dr. Donald Lightner (co-author of the report), University of Arizona, Department Veterinary Science & Microbiology, Tucson, AZ 85721 USA (email

Shrimps and Prawns of the World:
In this 1997 book, Penaeoid and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of the World (Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera), Dr. Isabel Pérez Farfante and Dr. Brian Kensley propose some changes in the way scientists refer to the popular farmed shrimp species.

Except for the giant tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, which would get to keep the "Penaeus" title, all the other popular farmed species might have to add a few syllables to their genus name. The genus is the first word of the Latin, or scientific, name. Good old Penaeus vannamei would become Litopenaeus vannamei.
And there could be similar changes for P. stylirostris, P. indicus, P. chinensis, P. japonicus and several other farmed species.

Published in France (text in English) by the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, the book contains 233 pages (8 1/2" x 11"), an excellent glossary of shrimp body parts, keys for the identification of 7 families and 56 genera, and the diagnoses for defining them. Also included are lists of the species and subspecies in these genera, along with information on their geographic distribution. The book is indexed and has a full bibliography. At least one species of each genus is illustrated. A few of the illustrations (by María Diéguez) were published in earlier works by Isabel Pérez Farfante. The bulk of the illustrations, however, are the work of Molly Kelly Ryan, a scientific illustrator in the Department of Invertebrate Zoology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.

This book, which sells for $58 (55 Euros), is not for everyone. Complex descriptions of shrimp body parts, followed by long lists of references make up most of the text. It covers hundreds of species, so there's little coverage of the farmed species—and there are no illustrations of Penaeus vannamei and P. stylirostris. In addition, the book does not include an explanation for the name changes of the farmed penaeids. It's primarily a book for scientists who are interested in the classification of crustaceans. Information
(in France): Delphine Henry, Sales Manager, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Publications Scientifiques Division, 57, rue Cuvier, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France (phone 33-01-40-79-37-00, fax 33-01-40-79-38-40, email; and (outside of France) Backhuys Publishers, P.O. Box 321, NL-2300 AH Leiden, The Netherlands (phone 31-71-517-0208, fax 31-71-517-1856, email, webpage

Most scientists and journal editors have adopted the name changes suggested by Pérez Farfante and Kensley. Nonetheless, Shrimp News will stick with the old names until a thorough genetic analysis of all the panaeids is completed.

Palaemonid Prawns: Biodiversity, Taxonomy, Biology and Management:
All marine shrimp, like Penaeus vannamei and P. monodon, and freshwater prawns, like Macrobrachium rosenbergii and M. nipponense, are decapod crustaceans, but members of different families. Marine shrimp belong to the Penaeidae Family and freshwater prawns belong to the Palaemonidae Family, which includes the genus Macrobrachium. Chapter Two of this 624 page book (156 mm x 246mm, 1.36 kilograms, references and index) devotes 150 pages to the classification of the genus Macrobrachium and provides an identification key for over 100 Macrobrachium species. The remaining chapters cover the distribution, commercial importance and farming of the palaemonids with frequent reference to the broad body of research on M. rosenbergii. Authored by K.V. Jayachandran, it was published in April 2001 and sells for $139. Information: Enfield Distribution Company, P.O. Box 699, May Street, Enfield, NH 03748 USA (phone 603-632-7377, fax 603-632-5611).

The Crustacea
Top of Page

The Variety of Life (Oxford University Press, 2000, 684 pages, $45) by Colin Tudge contains a concise, 17-page chapter on crustaceans (excerpts below). In his review of the book in The New York Times, W. Ford Doolittle said:

"Naming animals and plants is surely an ancient activity: there is much selective value in recognizing creatures that are similar to others we already know from experience to be edible or noxious, docile or hostile. In The Variety of Life, Colin Tudge, a very energetic British science writer, has produced a great wodge of a book that attempts to explain and make interesting the whole enterprise of taxonomy (or systematics), the scientific practice that has biological classification as its object."

Excerpts from the Chapter on Crustaceans:
"About 50,000 species of crustacean are known, but several times more might remain to be discovered. ...As a group they are extremely ancient, dating well back into the Cambrian at least 500 million years ago, and so they have had plenty of time to evolve and radiate."

"Crustaceans have an extremely successful body plan that lends itself to endless variety. The segments...are each fitted with a pair of appendages that are fundamentally biramous [two branches, paired], but, unrestrained by gravity, can take many different forms and serve for swimming, walking, offense, communication, reproduction, feeding, respiration, or, indeed, for several of these at once. The typical crustacean is a mobile Swiss army knife."

In his discussion of the decapods, Tudge says: "Order Decapoda includes some of the glories of the whole animal kingdom, such as the wonderful lobsters and crabs, and also some of the greatest commercial importance, including several groups of broadly similar creatures commonly known as shrimps and prawns. ...Two decapod suborders are commonly recognized. The first, the Dendrobranchiata, includes 450 species of penaeid and sergestid shrimps that grow up to 30 centimeters and are of great commercial importance. They are distinguished by their unique 'dendrobranchiate' [branching like a tree] gills. The second suborder, Pleocyemata, contains all the rest of the decapods."




The following exchange took place on Crust-L, a mailing list for crustacean scientists.  It’s a discussion of on-line sources of taxonomic information with special emphasis on crustaceans.


Jeff Shields (, who manages the Crust-L mailing list (very similar to the The Shrimp List), posted the following email to Crust-L on behalf of Nuno Simoes.


Nuno Simoes ( Just received mail from a friend about a new web project called “The Encyclopedia of Life” (, a website similar to Wikipedia, where all living species will be listed.

Apparently, information on crustaceans is being organized into large databases like the ( and the Tree of Life projects (  Could that data be compiled, shared and readily available within a project like the Encyclopedia of Life?  The webpage and the decapods in the Tree of Live webpage contain a lot of general information on crustaceans, but they are designed more for the professional biologists, rather than lay people that might be interested in mining information on crustaceans.Does anybody know of a single-stop webpage where all (or most) the crustacean species are listed?  Could the Encyclopedia of Life project be a meeting point?  Does the Crustacean Society have a role/position in the and Tree of Life and Encyclopedia of Life projects?  I am just curious on what you fellows think about all of this.

Information: Nuno Simoes, Associate Professor, C de TC Unidad Multidisciplinaria de Docencia e Investigación - Sisal (UMDI-Sisal), Facultad de Ciencias, UNAM, Yucatán, México (phone 01-988-912-01, email


Joel W. Martin ( The Tree of Life project, which you referred to in your message (, targets Decapoda only, and we are currently compiling a list of all families and genera of decapods, extinct and extant, and providing estimates of the species number within each genus, along with all of the associated references.

Several members of our team do in fact have complete lists of all species within several of the major decapod groups, and these workers are currently involved in various efforts to publish or otherwise make available these species lists (for example, Sammy De Grave for caridean shrimp; Gary Poore and colleagues on galatheids; Peter Davie, Peter Ng and Daniele Guinot on crabs; and others).All members of the Decapoda Tree of Life group are members of The Crustacean Society, which is cosponsoring our upcoming symposium on decapod phylogeny this coming January.  So yes, the Crustacean Society does have some representation on this front.


Mark Costello ( There is an open access, online system for marine species at


The site has a common database with separate views for different taxa and regional inventories for many taxa.  There is a “taxon match” tool so users can upload a list of names to cross check with the names in the system.  All the names are edited by taxonomic authorities, including several crustacean experts, regardless of where they live.  They do not have to worry about how the database is maintained, backed up and developed because it is hosted by a national government-funded marine data center whose mission is to maintain databases.  Next year we hope to develop web services to supply correct names to desktop databases at other institutions.  Of course, we work with experts to apply for funding to expand the content and develop the system whenever possible.  As you can imagine, where there are many species in a taxon, the editors often welcome dividing the work amongst colleagues.  We do not stop with species names, but include synonyms, images, literature references, distribution, ecology and more as experts and various projects have the time to enter it.  Thus it will always grow.  As with the literature, it will have mistakes and need updating, so it will be only as good as people make it.We are always looking for volunteers to join the editorial board or to act as reviewers of particular taxa.  We welcome any offers of collaboration and suggestions.  We have a goal of trying to fill current gaps in authoritative lists of marine species by the end of 2008 and create a “World Register of Marine Species”.  We are less than half way there to date.  And this is only a target.  There is a lot more to be done, so we are working with Encyclopedia of Life, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System and others to maximize the synergy of our effort.We have already provided some names to Species 2000 for the Annual Catalogue of Life CD and will be providing names to Ocean Biogeographic Information System and Encyclopedia of Life as well.


Information: Dr. Mark J. Costello, Leigh Marine Laboratory, University of Auckland, P.O. Box 349, Warkworth 0941, New Zealand (phone 64-9-373-7599, extension 83608, fax 64-9-422-6113, email, website


Information: The Crust-L list is an email-based mailing list for crustacean scientists.  Subscribing to and unsubscribing from Crust-L are easy.  To subscribe, send an email to LISTPROC@VIMS.EDU.  In the body of the email, put SUBSCRIBE CRUST-L, followed by your first and last names (not your email address).  To unsubscribe, send an email to: LISTPROC@VIMS.EDU.  In the body of the email, put UNSUBSCRIBE CRUST-L.  To post a message to the list send an email to CRUST-L@VIMS.EDU.  You must subscribe before sending your first message.


Source: The Crust-L Mailing List.  Subject: Crustaceans in the encyclopedia of life?  May 22, 2007, and November 27 and 30, 2007.


The Decapod Tree of Life


Abstract: The order Decapoda represents a species-rich group of crustaceans. Numerous economically important and morphologically diverse members of this group have been studied extensively for many decades, in part to understand their phylogeny. There are several competing hypotheses concerning relationships among the major lineages of Decapoda. Laboratories predict a robust decapod phylogeny based on molecular and morphological data in an attempt to resolve relationships among major lineages. The order includes roughly 175 families and more than 15,000 described species (in existence and extinct). Interpretations are complicated by the estimated 437 million years since the origin of decapods, with all the major lineages likely established by 325 million years ago. Constructing a molecular phylogeny across such a timescale requires genetic markers with enough variation to infer relationships at and within the family level, but which are conservative enough to reflect deeper divergences across infraorders.

In this paper, the researchers present a molecular phylogeny for the order Decapoda, combining nuclear and mitochondrial sequences, to investigate relationships among nine pleocyemate infraorders, one dendrobranchiate superfamily, 56 families, 113 genera and 128 species. New and available sequence data are assembled to build the most extensive decapod phylogeny to date both in terms of taxon representation and genetic coverage.

The researchers discuss current and new hypotheses of decapod relationships and suggest a plan towards a consensus of decapod evolution.

Source: Arthropod Systematics and Phylogeny. The Decapod Tree of Life: Compiling the Data and Moving Toward a Consensus of Decapod Evolution. Heather D. Bracken (Department of Biology, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, USA,, Alicia Toon, Darryl L. Felder, Joel W. Martin, Maegan Finley, Jennifer Rasmussen, Ferran Palero and Keith A. Crandall. Volume 67, Number 1, Page 99. Posted online June 17, 2009.


The Classification of Penaeid Shrimp
Top of Page

The classification of plants and animals has undergone tremendous change in the last few decades and the speed of the change appears to be accelerating. You probably remember the two kingdoms: plants and animals? Now there are five kingdoms (bacteria, fungi, protoctists, plants and animals), and a new level above kingdom called superkingdom by some and domain by others. The growth in knowledge, particularly molecular knowledge, and the ability to analyze that knowledge with computers has changed everything.

How do our friends the penaeids fit into the current classification system?

Domain = Eucarya
 Kingdom = Animalia
  Phylum = Anthropoda
   Subphylum = Crustacea
   Class = Malacostraca
    Subclass = Eumalacostraca
     Superorder = Eucarida
       Order = Decapoda
         Suborder = Dendrobranchiata
          Super Family = Penaeoidea
           Family = Penaeidae
             Genus = Penaeus
              Species = vannamei


Penaeus vannamei May Get
Its Name Back
Top of Page


In a 1997 book, Penaeoid and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of the World (Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera), Dr. Isabel Perez Farfante and Dr. Brian Kensley proposed some changes in the way scientists refer to the popular farmed shrimp species, and those changes were generally accepted by scientists worldwide.  Except for the giant tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, which got to keep the “Penaeus” title, all the other popular farmed species had to add a few syllables to their genus name (the first half of the scientific name).  Good old Penaeus vannamei became Litopenaeus vannamei.  And there were similar changes for stylirostris, indicus, chinensis, japonicus and several other farmed species.  Now there is evidence that those changes might not fit with the most recent molecular analysis of the penaeids.


In a paper presented at the World Aquaculture Society Meeting in Bali, Indonesia (May 2005), researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, say:


A book published in 1997 suggested that the genus be separated into six subgenera—“but this is not supported by results of molecular phylogenetic analysis.”  Based on mtDNA, penaeids can be separated into two clades [a group with common features], one of which consists of Penaeus japonicus (now in the new monotypic subgenus Marsupenaeus) and species in the subgenus Melicertus as a paraphyletic assemblage.  The other four subgenera (including the two occurring in the Western Hemisphere) [presumably Peneaus vannamei and P. stylirostris] make up another clade, but whether species in the subgenus Penaeus are monophyletic is doubtful.


Help from Wikipedia (the free, online encylopedia/glossary): “In phylogenetics, a group is monophyletic (Greek: of one stem) if all organisms in that group are known to have developed from a common ancestral form, and all descendants of that form are included in the group.  A taxonomic group that contains organisms but not their common ancestor is called polyphyletic, and a group that contains some but not all descendants of the most recent common ancestor is called paraphyletic.  The grouping of reptiles and birds is generally believed to be monophyletic.  For example, all organisms in the genus Homo are believed to have come from the same ancestral form in the family Hominidae, and no other descendants are known.  Thus the genus Homo is monophyletic.  If, on the other hand, it were discovered that Homo habilis had developed from a different ancestor than Homo sapiens, and this ancestor was not included in the genus, then the genus would be polyphyletic.  Since biologists by and large prefer groups to be monophyletic, in this case they would likely either split the genus or broaden it to include the additional forms.”


Back to the Chinese University Study: Genetic studies have been conducted on P. chinensis, P. monodon, P. merguiensis and P. japonicus.  Studies based on mtDNA and microsatellites show that there is little genetic structure [difference] in P. chinensis within its geographical range in northern China and Korea.


Homogeneous populations of monodon in the southwest Indian Ocean indicate a high gene flow over great geographical distances.  In contrast, populations of monodon in the Indonesian Archipelago are divided into three clusters and those in the Philippines are also fragmented, showing that shrimp populations could be structured [classified by their differences].  A strong difference exists between populations of monodon in the Pacific and Indian oceans.


A similar biogeographic break has been demonstrated for merguiensis.  A 5% divergence between the two merguiensis clades [groups] in the Pacific and Indian Oceans suggests the possible existence of two species, although analysis of nuclear DNA markers does not support this view.


Recent studies in our laboratory show that two morphologically similar varieties of japonicus with different color banding patterns in the carapace exhibit a divergence of 6-7%.  Analyses clearly demonstrated the occurrence of a species in Southeast Asia that is distinct from the one in Japan and China.


Sources: 1. World Aquaculture 2005 Abstracts (a CD of the 700+ abstracts of the World Aquaculture Society’s Meeting in Bali, Indonesia, May 2005).  Genetic Differentiation of Penaeid Shrimps in the Indo-West Pacific–A Review.  Ka Hou Chu (, Kwok Ho Tsoi and Zhaoxia Cui (Department of Biology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, N.T., Hong Kong, China).  Information: John Cooksey, WAS Conference Manager (email  2. Wikipedia (  June 18, 2005.

Penaeus vannamei Gets Its Name Back
Top of Page

The April 6, 2007, issue of the journal
Aquaculture contains a review article written by Dr. T.W. Flegel, a professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, that says it's okay to drop the "Lito" from Litopenaeus and use the binomial* Penaeus vannamei again! In fact, the journal Aquaculture, the most prestigious of the fish and shellfish farming journals, encourages it!

[*Binomial nomenclature: In biology, the formal method of naming species. As the word "binomial" suggests, the scientific name of a species is formed by the combination of two terms: the genus name, in this case
"Penaeus", and the specific descriptor, in this case "vannamei".]

In a 1997 book,
Penaeoid and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of the World (Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera), Dr. Isabel Pérez Farfante and Dr. Brian Kensley proposed some changes in the way scientists refer to the popular farmed shrimp species, and those changes were routinely accepted by scientists worldwide. Except for the giant tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, which got to keep the "Penaeus" title, all the other popular farmed species had to add a few syllables to their genus name. Good old Penaeus vannamei became Litopenaeus vannamei. And there were similar changes for stylirostris, indicus, chinensis, japonicus and several other farmed species.

Excerpts from the Abstract of Flegel's Review

"Pérez Farfante and Kensley's monograph of the penaeoid and sergestoid shrimps and prawns of the world incorporated a proposed taxonomic revision by raising former sub-genera in the genus
Penaeus to generic rank. This would result in replacement of the 27 traditional penaeid shrimp binomials with an almost completely new set. Due to general unfamiliarity regarding the rules of zoological nomenclature, non-specialists in the shrimp industry and even scientists in related academic fields felt that they were obliged by taxonomic rules to follow the changes embodied in the monograph, whether they agreed with them or not. Others more familiar with their rights (including myself) continued to use the traditional binomials. The result has been some confusion in shrimp nomenclature in the succeeding nine years."

"The purpose of this review is to argue that the revisions embodied in the Pérez Farfante and Kensley monograph are extremely disruptive to communication amongst practitioners in the shrimp fishery and the shrimp aquaculture industry and to scientists and students who study shrimp. This feature alone is counter to the goal of stability embodied in the zoological code of nomenclature and can alone be sufficient justification to consider the proposed revisions unacceptable. Indeed, the success of proposed taxonomic revisions does not fall under the zoological code, since the code is concerned with issues of priority. Instead, revisions survive or die depending on the majority action of the whole impacted community acting as individuals to accept them by use or reject them by disuse. Apart from arguments based on nomenclatural stability, I will attempt to show that sufficient new genetic information on penaeid shrimp has been accumulated in the past nine years to show that there is no compelling reason to accept the revisions.

Excerpts from the Body of Flegel's Review

"The purpose of this review is to describe the background for the proposed taxonomic revision in Penaeus, to inform the general shrimp community of their right to partake in accepting or rejecting the proposed revision and to propose a way forward in the interim transitory period during which the majority opinion about the proposed revision is determined."

"Thus, decisions regarding taxonomic ranks are determined by a consensus process amongst end users. Disagreements are not uncommon, even among specialists."

"No one is obliged by the rules of zoological nomenclature to accept the revisions in penaeid shrimp binomials proposed by Pérez Farfante and Kensley (1997). Given the potential disruptive effect of the proposed changes in scientific communication and trade, I believe that very strong arguments should have been put forward as to why the changes were technically and practically necessary. This should have involved a discussion of all the issues as they might impact on the shrimp fishery and the shrimp culture industry. Ideally in such situations, all those impacted should listen to one another, recognize and respect other points of view and thereby gain a broader appreciation of systematics and of the whole range of different attitudes held by colleagues around the world."

"Since such a process did not take place prior to publication of the Pérez Farfante and Kensley (1997) monograph, it must take place after the fact, and it is important that all the people who use penaeid shrimp binomials understand that they have an individual right to accept the proposed revisions or reject them. The way to express their opinion is simply to use the binomial system of their choice in speech and in writing. However, this decision should be carefully considered. Therefore, I would like to present some arguments that might be made for and against the proposed revisions."

"I recommend that authors who are pressured by journal editors to adhere to the proposed Pérez Farfante and Kensley (1997) revisions against their will and as a requirement for publication withdraw their article and submit it to a different journal that has an unbiased and non-coercive editorial policy."

In his Acknowledgements at the end of the review, Flegel says: "I would like to thank Dr. William 'Bill' Dall formerly with the Queensland Museum and CSIRO Australia for the inspiration to write this article and for his valuable comments and encouragement during its preparation."

You can purchase a copy of Flegel's seven-page review at ScienceDirect ( for $30.

Editors at Aquaculture Say Penaeus vannamei

Aquaculture not only placed Flegel's article at the very beginning of the April 2007 issue of its journal, it preceded it with an editorial in favor of the name change, saying: We wish to draw your attention to a paper by T.W. Flegel entitled "The right to refuse revision in the genus Penaeus". ...We are in agreement with the arguments put forward in T.W. Flegel's paper and have agreed that Aquaculture prefers submissions on penaeid shrimp use the generic epithet Penaeus, preferably qualified at the first mention by Flegel's proposal, namely to follow the rules of zoological nomenclature by placing the subgenus names in brackets between the traditional genus name Penaeus and the relevant species name at first mention [e.g., Penaeus (Fenneropenaeus) chinensis]. The editors do not however wish to be "coercive" in this matter and so authors who feel strongly supportive of the revised Pérez Farfante and Kensley (1997) generic names should use Flegel's alternative at the first mention of the genus to indicate that another name is also used [e.g., Fenneropenaeus chinensis (also called Penaeus chinensis)].

Professor Timothy William Flegel, Center of Excellence for Shrimp Molecular Biology and Biotechnology (Centex Shrimp) Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Rama VI Road, Bangkok 10400 Thailand (phone 66-2-201-5876, fax 66-2-354-7344, email, webpage

Sources: 1. Aquaculture ( a. Review Article: The right to refuse revision in the genus Penaeus. T.W. Flegel. Volume 264, Issues 1-4, Page 2, April 6, 2007. b. Editorial: Use of the generic name Penaeus. D.J. Alderman, B.A. Costa-Pierce, E.M. Donaldson, G. Hulata and R.P. Wilson. Volume 264, Issues 1-4, Page 1, April 6, 2007. 2. Penaeoid and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of the World (Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera). Dr. Isabel Pérez Farfante and Dr. Brian Kensley (illustrations by Molly Kelly Ryan). 1997. Information (in France): Delphine Henry, Sales Manager, Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Publications Scientifiques Division, 57, rue Cuvier, 75231 Paris Cedex 05, France (phone 33-01-40-79-37-00, fax 33-01-40-79-38-40, email; and (outside of France) Backhuys Publishers, P.O. Box 321, NL-2300 AH Leiden, The Netherlands (phone 31-71-517-0208, fax 31-71-517-1856, email, webpage

When Shrimp Ruled the World
Top of Page

Those were the days my friend. Yes, those were the days. And only 525 million years ago. That's when anomalocaridids, six-foot-long, shrimp-like animals, were the top predators in the marine food chain. A 1994 article in the journal Science says: "Anomalocaridids were active predators, as indicated by the raptorial anterior appendages. The hydrodynamic profile would allow fast swimming to pursue and capture prey. ...The morphology also suggests that anomalocaridids may have spent much time partly buried or camouflaged in the bottom sediment, with the stalked eyes protruding over the bottom and scanning the surroundings for swimming prey.... Several features indicate affinities of the group to accepted arthropods: the presence of a tough exoskeleton, growth by molting, true segmentation, comb-like gills, and pivot joints in the appendages."

Derek Briggs, at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom, who helped piece together the history of the anomalocaridids, says, "We do not consider it an arthropod, but the representative of a hitherto unknown phylum." In his book Wonderful Life,
Stephen J. Gould (the Harvard zoology professor and author who died in 2002) said anomalocaris means "odd-shrimp". Shrimp News contacted Gould for more information. Gould responded: "Anomalocaris has shrimp in its etymology, but is not technically a crustacean by genealogy. This animal from the Burgess Shale is the largest creature from this early period in life's multicellular history. We cannot place it in any modern phylum, but it is clearly related to arthropods."

On July 24, 2001, Henry Fountain, editor of the Observatory column in the Science Section of The New York Times
, reported: "The 511-million-year-old remains of a crustacean have been found in England. They are the oldest crustaceans ever found. Researchers from the University of Leicester, the British Geological Survey and the University of Ulm in Germany found the fossils in limestone near Wales. The organism is about half a millimeter long, but its anatomy, including softer tissues, is preserved in great detail. It has a shell, antenna and appendages typical of crustaceans. The discovery was reported in the journal Science."

In the Cambrian Period, one of the mightiest predators cruising the primeval oceans was a critter about the size of a lobster named Hurdia victoria.  But even though it measured only about one-and-a-half-feet long, it had enough natural weaponry to dominate the marine food chain about 505 million years ago.  An ancestor of arthropods such as insects, spiders and crustaceans, Hurdia sported stalked eyes like a shrimp, a circular jaw lined with fearsome teeth, and a bizarre, oversized head.  Such shells or carapaces normally protect soft parts of the body, as seen in modern crabs and shrimp.  But this structure in Hurdia is empty and does not cover or protect the rest of the body.The Hurdia fossil also reveals details of the gills associated with the body, some of the best preserved in the fossil record.  Most of the body is covered with gills, which were probably necessary to provide oxygen to such a large, actively swimming animal.

Top of Page

The September 15, 2000, edition of The New York Times contained a review of Bait, a comic, action-adventure, crime movie—which mentions shrimp. Stephen Holden's review, From Prawns to a Pawn, A Thief's Bumbling Journey, says:

"One of the running jokes (or what passes for a joke) in the numbingly incoherent comic action thriller Bait
has to do with the distinction between prawns and shrimp. You see, when Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx), a paroled thief, and a partner are caught red-handed stealing $2,000 worth of prawns from a Brooklyn warehouse, everyone, including the police, insists on calling them shrimp."

"Alvin is simply beside himself that people can't get the difference straight and points out more than once that prawns are larger than shrimp. But then, though Alvin may know his way around a fish store, he isn't the brightest light on the planet. While he is fiercely denying any involvement in the robbery, an interrogating officer reaches behind his ear, and what does he find tucked there? Why, a stray shrimp (oops, prawn) of course [actually, a giant tiger shrimp, Penaeus monodon, raw, medium-to-large, shell-on tail]. At that moment the jig is up."

"The difference between prawns and shrimp, incidentally, has no relevance whatsoever to Bait
beyond providing some tedious, high-pitched verbal filler for its motor-mouthed star."

The best thing about Bait
is the above review, which, incidentally, continues on for six more paragraphs without saying anything nice about the film. Don't waste your money on Bait at a theater, I'll let you know when it comes out in video and point you in the direction of the shrimp/prawn jokes.

Stephen Holden concludes his review of Bait
with: "The result is an odoriferous helping of cinematic seafood whose pungency suggests that it has been sitting on the kitchen counter for weeks."

Bait hit the video stores in January 2001. Right at the beginning, it contains some interesting shrimp chatter:

Alvin Sanders (a small-time crook played by Jamie Foxx): "All we got to do is go over there and knock this thing off [a seafood distributor]. We'll get a couple of grand. I've been casing this joint for months, baby. Look at that!"

Stevie Sanders (Alvin's brother, looking at a photograph): "Shrimp! You on parole and you out here trying to go back for stealing some shrimp."

Alvin Sanders: "Not shrimps baby! Prawns!"

Stevie Sanders: "What the fuck is a prawn?"

Alvin Sanders: "I'll tell you what a prawn is. A prawn is bigger than a shrimp. It's more like a jumbo shrimp cocktail, right. The prawns come out and they are real big, like they've been working out in the back, like they're on steroids or something. That's prawns. A prawn, that's like five or six shrimp."

Stevie Sanders: "Yeah right, I'm going back to the truck."

Editorial Note: Shortly after the above scene, during Alvin's arrest, a police officer holds up a head-off, shell-on tail. It appears on screen for about a second. When I first saw the movie in a theater, I was convinced that it was a monodon tail; after looking at it several times on the video, I think it might have been a Macrobrachium rosenbergii tail. Check it out. Let me know what you think.

Bob Rosenberry, Shrimp News International. November 2006.

Click Here to Print This Page
Click Here to Send This Page to a Friend
Click Here to Get on the Mailing List for All Shrimp News Announcements