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Introduction: The Most Popular Farmed Species
Identification Guides
The Classification of Penaeid Shrimp
The Crustacea
When Shrimp Ruled the World
Bait

Introduction: The Most Popular Farmed Species
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Hundreds 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.

 

Giant Tiger Shrimp (Penaeus monodon): Named for its huge size and banded tail, P. monodon still accounts for most of the farmed shrimp coming out of Asia, but it's likely to lose that position to P. vannamei (below) over the next couple of years.  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.

 

Consumers in Japan and the United States purchase huge quantities of tigers from Thailand and other countries in Asia.  And tigers appear on most restaurant menus.  In the United States, tigers have a presence at most grocery stores and seafood markets.  Reddish-orange on the sides and pearly-white on the top and bottom (often with tail fan attached as a convenient handle), they're cooked and ready for dipping.

 

Western White Shrimp (Penaeus vannamei): Native to the Pacific coast of Central and South America (from Mexico to Peru), this is the leading farm-raised species in the Western Hemisphere, representing more than 95% of production.  Because vannamei feeds on organisms which grow naturally in the pond, it is cheaper to feed than monodon.  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 almost 30 years.  Farmers throughout Asia are switching to vannamei, so it could become the dominant species in Asia over the next couple of years.

 

Markets include the United States (60%), which takes, frozen, shell-on tails and value-added products and Europe (30%), which likes whole, frozen animals.  Consumers appear to like the taste of vannamei better than the taste of monodon.

 

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 is on the decline again in the Western Hemisphere, the island 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 (wrmore@comcast.com), 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.

 

During the boom years of Chinese shrimp farming (1988-1993), chinensis was marketed in the United States and around the world.

 

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 (michel.autrand@wanadoo.fr), one of the pioneers of shrimp farming in New Caledonia, responding to a question on the Shrimp List, a mailing list for shrimp farmers (shrimp-subscribe@yahoogroups.com), 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 density (less than two animals per square meter).  Indicus continues to grow in high salinity waters, at lease 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 (http://www.was.org) 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 has been claimed (but not confirmed by research), prawns 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 (http://www.was.org), contains an interesting report on the farming potential of esculentus by Sandy Keys and Peter Crocos, researchers in Australia.  They conducted commercial grow-out 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.

 

Freshwater Prawns (Macrobrachium spp.): World production of farmed prawns has risen to around 200,000 metric tons, worth about a billion dollars, most of it from Bangladesh and China.  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 large quantities of 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 more than 500 small freshwater prawn farms that grow M. rosenbergii.

 

Beginning in 2000 and continuing through 2002, freshwater prawns (defrosted shell-on tails) have been available at most big grocery stores in Southern California.  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
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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 mail@urnerbarry.com, webpage http://www.urnerbarry.com).

 

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 michel@mar.icmyl.unam.mx).

 

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 ikanuw@aol.com). 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 www.fishid.com).  Single copy sales in Europe: Klaus Groh (conchbooks@conchbooks.de).  Single copy sales in Australia: Peter Stone (oceans@netspace.net.au).  Single copy sales in Japan: Junko Maruoka (nexus@abox.so-net.ne.jp).

 

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 www.blackwell-science.com).

 

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 dvl@u.arizona.edu).

 

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 dhenry@mnhn.fr); 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 backhuys@backhuys.com, webpage http://www.backhuys.com).

 

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 for at least another year.

 

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 Classification of Penaeid Shrimp
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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 as we enter the new Millennium.  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

The Crustacea
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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."

When Shrimp Ruled the World
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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."

Bait
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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 you 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.

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