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Phylum Arthropoda > Subphylum Crustacea > Class Malacostraca > Order Decapoda > prawns and shrimps
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For nature guides: introducing shrimps
updated Apr 2020

What are shrimps?
Have you ever eaten a prawn or a shrimp? Yes, almost everyone knows what a shrimp looks like.

Shrimps and prawns belong to a group of animals called crustaceans. Other crustaceans include crabs!

Finding prawns and shrimps

  • Let's use our ears to find a shrimp! "Can you hear the snapping sound? That's made by the tiny snapping shrimp. Listen and you will find its burrow. Be still so that it won't be afraid and will come out". This exercise helps them to use all their senses and to stay still and observe.

    "Let's see if this snapping shrimp has a friend" Talk about the shrimp goby.

  • Let's use our eyes to find a shrimp. "How many shrimps we can find in this pool?" This exercise helps them to observe and look for well camouflaged animals.

    Other messages: "There are all kinds of tiny animals hiding below the sand, and almost invisible in pools. So watch your step!"

    "See how many tiny shrimps are hiding among this small clump of seaweed? So avoid stepping on seaweeds."

  • Why is it so hard to spot a shrimp? "How may ways to do they have of hiding?" Being transparent or the same colour as the surroundings, hiding under a stone, hiding in a burrow, hiding in the sand.

  • Shrimps also live on other animals for safety! For example, some live on sea anemones, sea pens, soft corals, hard corals and other kinds of animals..

Shrimp shape stories

  • The snapping shrimp has a giant pincer! Talk about how this is used by the snapping shrimp.

  • How is the shrimp different from a crab? "Have you eaten a shrimp? Have you eaten a crab? What are the differences?" Talk about how the shrimp moves differently from a crab. "So the next time you eat seafood, have a closer look at the animal".

Prawns and shrimps are important to the ecosystem

  • Just like you, many animals love to eat shrimps and prawns! They are an important part of the ecosystem. Can we think of some animals that might eat a shrimp? Some charismatic animals to highlight: shorebirds, fishes.

  • Mangroves and seagrasses are important to shrimps. Small shrimps find safety among the mangrove roots and seagrasses. When they get bigger, they can move into deeper water and mate and make new shrimps. More about the lifecycle of shrimps.

Prawns and shrimps and you
We all love to eat prawns and shrimps!

  • Commercial prawn farming can have a devastating impact. More details.
  • Eat less prawns
  • Take only what you need, eat what you take. Don't throw any prawns away.

Handling tips

Finding shrimps: Tiny transparent shrimps are common in pools, snapping shrimps are found almost everywhere on the intertidal, larger prawns lurk among seagrasses and seaweeds.

Not all tiny shrimps are juveniles of larger species. Many of them remain tiny all their lives.

Be gentle! When overturning a rock to look at shrimps, be gentle so as not to crush animals under the rock, and plants living on top of the rock. Be sure to return the rock to exactly the way you found it, and ensure the visitors also learn that they should do this.

Don't disturb shrimps: Don't dig them up, poke at them or make them jump around. Try to point out features without disturbing them.

Don't let visitors touch snapping shrimps: their snaps can be very painful, and they pinch too.

Don't put shrimps in a pot Many can jump out and will die if they land on a dry spot.

Don't remove commensal shrimps from their host: it sets a bad example. Just look at them where they are.
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