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Related subjects: Insects, Reptiles and Fish

Background Information

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Litopenaeus vannamei
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Crustacea
Class: Malacostraca
Order: Decapoda
Suborder: Dendrobranchiata
Bate, 1888
Superfamilies and families





Prawns are shrimp–like crustaceans, belonging to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata .

Prawns are distinguished from the superficially similar shrimp by the gill structure which is branching in prawns (hence the name, dendro=“tree”; branchia=“gill”), but is lamellar in shrimp. The sister taxon to Dendrobranchiata is Pleocyemata, which contains all the true shrimp, crabs, lobsters, etc.

The largest prawn is commonly called the giant tiger prawn, which can weigh up to 650 g (23 ounces).

Commercial and culinary use

As used in commercial farming and fishery, the terms shrimp and prawn are generally used interchangeably. 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 “jumbo shrimp”). Australia and other Commonwealth countries follow this European/British use to an even greater extent, using the word “prawn” almost exclusively. ( Paul Hogan’s use of the phrase “I'll slip an extra shrimp on the barbie for you” in a television advertisement was intended to make what he was saying easier for his American audience to understand, and was thus a deliberate distortion of what an Australian would typically say.) In Spain, gambas al ajillo (translated to garlic prawns) is a popular dish with both the locals and tourists. Traditionally, gambas al ajillo and other tapas are served in earthenware ramekins or cazuelas de barro in Spanish. In South Asia and Southeast Asia, prawn curry is a very popular dish.


In various forms of English, the name “prawn” is often applied to shrimp as well, generally the larger species, such as Leander serratus. In the United States, according to the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, the word “prawn” usually indicates a freshwater shrimp or prawn. In Middle English, the word “prawn” is recorded as prayne or prane; no cognate form can be found in any other language. It has often been connected to the Latin perna, a ham-shaped shellfish, but this is due to an old scholarly error that connected perna and parnocchie with prawne-fishes or shrimps. In fact, the Old Italian perna and pernocchia meant a shellfish that yielded nacre, or mother-of-pearl.

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