Yes, there’s a difference between shrimp and prawns

https://www.eater.com/2019/9/15/20866854/whats-the-difference-between-shrimp-prawns

What’s the Difference Between Shrimp and Prawns?

No, shrimp are not just smaller prawns

Seven raw prawns in a metal bowl on marble background.Lisovskaya Natalia / Shutterstock

This post originally appeared in an edition of What’s the Difference?, a weekly newsletter for the curious and confused by New York City writer Brette Warshaw. Eater will be publishing all editions that parse food-related differences, though those hardly scratch the surface of the world’s (and the newsletter’s) curiosities: Sign up to get What’s the Difference? in your inbox or catch up on the full archive.


What’s the difference between…

Shrimp and Prawns?

There are few crustaceans as misunderstood as the shrimp and the prawn. Some people think they’re the same thing; others think they differ only by size; others think they’re simply called different things in different countries, or regions, or states. And yet: all of these people are wrong! Shrimp and prawns are completely different creatures. Yes, they’re both decapods — which means they have external skeletons and 10 legs — but that’s where the similarities end. Shrimp belong to the sub-order Pleocyemata, and prawns belong to the sub-order Dendrobranchiata. Let’s explore what this difference means, shall we?

Gills: As you may remember from ninth-grade biology, gills are structured in a way that maximizes their surface area. Shrimp have plate-like gills, which consist of flat, layered arrangements; prawns have branching gills, which is where I’m assuming the “branchiata” part of their name comes from.

Claws and pincers: Shrimp have claws on two pairs of their legs, and their front pincers are the largest. Prawns have claws on three pairs of their legs, and their second pincers are larger than their front ones.

Body structure: Let’s say these decapods have four distinct areas of their body: the head, the thorax (the area right behind the head), the abdomen (the “torso”), and the tail. In prawns, the head overlaps with the thorax, which overlaps with the abdomen — much like shingles on a roof. In shrimp, the thorax overlaps with both the head and the abdomen, like a cummerbund.

Habitat: Prawns live in fresh water, while shrimp can come from either fresh water or salt water (though the majority of species come from salt water). Fun fact: the colder the water the shrimp is from, the smaller the size! (I always thought the tiny shrimp in Scandinavian-esque shrimp salads were creepy, and I no longer do.)

Size: Generally speaking, prawns are larger than shrimp — though this can differ depending on the species.

Taste: Anyone who tries to tell you that shrimp and prawns taste different is wrong. Sure, some prawns are sweeter than shrimp, and vice versa — but it’s really dependent on the species, rather than the sub-orders as a whole.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s