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Mind Boggling Facts About Shrimp

Person holding shrimp

Shrimp are curious little crustaceans that seem to embody everything mysterious about the sea. These friends of the ocean have distinct personalities, ranging from shy and reserved to bold and outgoing. Some of them even have a penchant for adventure while others will almost never leave their shells.

shrimp live in the deep and can measure anywhere from two to twenty-five centimeters. Their abdomens consist of a powerful shell in the front section and five pairs of legs on the thorax. The creatures have soft antennas with a wide range of colors, from deep red to bright white.

But why are shrimp such an integral part of our lives (and the ocean)? We’ve uncovered the most intriguing facts about shrimp to shed more light on their importance.

Facts About Shrimp

1. The Shrimp’s Heart is Located at the Bottom of its Head

Close up of shrimp

Yes, the anatomy of shrimp has enough room for a heart. It is located in its thorax, next to its head. The heart is a single chamber with three openings known as ‘ostria’. The ostria allowed blood circulation into the heart and around the body. shrimp also have smaller ‘accessory hearts’ located at different places throughout their body.

2. The Plural for ‘Shrimp’

In linguistics, the noun ‘shrimp’ can be countable or uncountable. This means it is grammatically correct to say ‘three shrimp’ and ‘three shrimp’. However, a better way of referring to a group of shrimp is ‘colony’ or ‘school’, depending on the location and variety.

3. Shrimp as a Slang

Like many words in the English language, some of them evolved to adopt different meanings and can be used to disparage a person. For example, the word shrimp can be used to demean a person’s stature. Shrimp are traditionally small creatures. Calling someone a shrimp is derogatory because you are comparing them to one of the smallest creatures in the sea, which often have no strength, are skinny, and have fragile limbs.  

4. The Origins of the Word “Shrimp” and Etymology

Although shrimp originated over 500 million years ago, the word itself seems to have originated in the early fourteenth century. It was used to describe fish with slender crustacean-like bodies that were edible for human consumption. That word originated from ‘skreppa,’, a Norse word meaning thin person, which is derived from ‘skrimp’, a Proto-Germanic word.

5. The Shrimp is Super Smart

You would be forgiven to think that shrimp are ‘basic’ animals but they actually seem to have a mind of their own. They can demonstrate a capacity to acquire knowledge and form memories for future interaction. This is proven by the fact that they display complex social behavior where they protect each other and also engage in ritualized fighting.

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Moreover, researchers discovered that the brain of shrimp contains learning centers called mushroom bodies, which were previously only observed in insects. With that said, some people believe that shrimp, while they are highly intelligent, are not able to feel pain at all.  

6. The Shrimp’s Blood is Called “Hemolymph”

shrimp don’t have red blood, but this doesn’t mean they don’t bleed. Instead of red blood, shrimp have a fluid called ‘hemolymph’ that carries oxygen. The oxygen transporter in shrimp is hemocyanin, a molecule that contains a copper atom to hold oxygen for distribution around the body. In human bodies, we use hemoglobin, which contains iron for the same purpose.

7. Shrimp Can be Deadly

Some species of shrimp are considered to be deadly with several bacteria in their bodies such as E. coli and vibrio. These bacteria can cause food poisoning, including diarrhea and dehydration, and in some rare cases, it can even prove to be fatal. So make sure your shrimp is properly cooked before eating it.

8. The Shrimp Will Eat Just About Anything

shrimp are omnivores, just like humans, and will eat just about anything. Their primary role in the ecosystem is to serve as scavengers. They will eat anything that falls down to the bottom of the water bed. This includes plants and animals, whether they are dead or alive. As small larvae, shrimp are very small and get carried with the water current,  so they eat anything that floats nearby, which is mostly plankton.

9. Shrimp Carry Their Eggs

Unlike most fish that lay their eggs, shrimp retain their eggs inside their bodies until they hatch. The eggs are carried on the underside of the body. shrimp that carry eggs are known as ‘berried’ shrimp. The female releases sexual hormones into the water indicating that she is ready to breed. The male then deposits his sperm onto the female, who then stores the eggs under her tail.

If you observe closely, you may notice the shrimp carrying their eggs.

10. shrimp are Constantly Bullied for Their Size

Live shrimp

shrimp are usually very small and frail creatures. They are not suitable around larger or aggressive fish as tank mates. It’s not a good idea to pair shrimp with fish such as barbs and bettas, unless you want to intentionally serve your shrimp as fish food. The best way to keep shrimp as a pet is to keep them in a tank with small, peaceful fish such as corydoras and lots of vegetation.

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11. Shrimp Don’t Have Fins  

Shrimp are very good at swimming but they don’t have fins to move in the water. A shrimp swims by pulling its abdomen towards its body (carapace). This motion propels the shrimp through the water at different speeds. This unique configuration of the shrimp allows them to swim backward.

12. Mantis Shrimp are Monogamous

The mantis shrimp prefers monogamous relationships and lives with the same partner for an extended period of time. This is an advantage for shrimp because it helps them avoid new predators and allows them to share resources with a single partner for a long period of time. Monogamous relationships in nature are rare.

13. There are Thousands of Shrimp Species

Did you know there are at least 300 species of shrimp available in the world, however only a few are commercially available. These species live in a wide range of habitats, from lakes and rivers to the sea and ocean.

14. Shrimp Can Make a Lot of Noise

Certain species of shrimp can make a loud snapping noise that is said to be more intense than any other marine animal. They do this by hitting their claws together. The noise is loud enough to stun or even kill certain types of fish. They also use these noises to communicate with each other and defend their homes.

In fact, the pistol shrimp, also known as the ‘snapping shrimp’ can close its claws so fast that it generates a bubble louder than a bullet when it implodes. This snap can stun prey, giving the shrimp enough time to feed on the prey.

15. Mantis shrimp Have Powerful Eyes

The powerful eyes of the mantis shrimp have allowed scientists to design an imaging system that can detect cancerous tissues during cancer surgery. The system accurately labeled tumors in mice in 18 patients undergoing breast cancer.

This discovery is vital because many patients undergo incomplete tumor surgery for head and neck cancer. The new imaging technology will help visualize more cancerous tissue and improve success in the operating room.

16. Shrimp Live for Up to 6.5 Years

The length of time that passes between hatching, reproduction, and death varies among certain species of shrimp. Most shrimp can live for up to 6.5 years. Dwarf shrimp can live for only two years, while fan shrimp can live  for up to 12 years in captivity.

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17. Shrimp Clean the Ocean

Shrimp making an observation

Shrimp play an important role in cleaning our oceans. They eat dead animals such as fish, whales, clams, and even other shrimp. This contributes toward cleaning the ecosystem and can maintain the water’s properties. Without shrimp in our seas, the ocean water would be too polluted to sustain life.

18. Shrimp are Very Old

The oldest known shrimp fossil belongs to an animal called the ‘Waptia’ that lived some 500 million years ago in the Cambrian Period. That specimen was found by a team of researchers along with clusters of egg-shaped objects that were located inside its body. Researchers aren’t sure but each individual could carry up to 24 eggs. In other words, long before life on land had moved beyond reptiles, shrimp had already carved out a place in the kingdom for millions of years to come.

True Facts about the Mantis Shrimp

This short video by Freshwaters Illustrated takes a closer look into a busy tropical stream to learn how shrimp invertebrates create a nutrient-rich environment for wildlife to thrive.


So there you have it, 18 astounding facts about shrimp. There is more to the humble shrimp than meets the eye. They will continue to play an important role in our oceans, environment, and diet. We hope this guide about shrimp species gives you a glimpse into their lives. Stay tuned to this page for more facts related to fish and knowledgeable posts.

Did we leave something out? Let us know and we’ll update this space with more trivia.

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