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11 Interesting Facts About Prawns

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Prawns are a popular type of seafood that has a sweet, succulent taste and a firm texture. They are versatile ingredients that can be prepared in many delicious ways. Here are 11 fascinating facts about these delicious crustaceans.

1. Prawns Are Not The Same As Shrimp

Although the terms “prawn” and “shrimp” are often used interchangeably, they refer to different suborders of crustaceans. True prawns have three pairs of claw-like legs and belong to the suborder Dendrobranchiata. Shrimp have two pairs of claw-like legs and belong to the suborder Pleocyemata.

In some countries like the United States, the term “shrimp” is used for all types. But in other places, especially the United Kingdom and Australia, “prawn” is the more common term.

2. There Are Many Types of Prawns

Over 300 different species of prawns exist globally. Some of the most popular edible types include:

  • Giant tiger prawn – Large, up to 12 inches long. Farmed and fished commercially.
  • King prawn – Up to 9 inches long. Sweet, firm flesh. Popular for grilling.
  • Akiami paste shrimp – Tiny, less than an inch long. Used to make shrimp paste.
  • Southern rough shrimp – 5 inches long. Fished along the Atlantic coast.

Prawn species vary widely in size, color, habitat, and culinary uses.

3. Prawns Are Packed With Nutrients

Fresh Tiger Prawns
Fresh Tiger Prawns

Prawns provide several beneficial nutrients:

Nutrient% Daily Value*
Vitamin B1259%

In addition to being high in protein, they contain vitamins and minerals that support metabolism, bone health, thyroid function, and immunity. The antioxidant astaxanthin also gives prawns their distinctive reddish color.

4. Most Prawns Are Farm-Raised

Over 90% of prawns consumed worldwide are farm-raised through aquaculture rather than caught wild (). China is the leading producer, supplying over 70% of global farmed prawn production.

Farm-raised prawns mature rapidly, allowing for year-round availability. Their production is also less susceptible to environmental factors compared to wild-caught prawns.

5. Prawns Have a Short Lifespan

A prawn’s lifespan is relatively brief compared to other seafood:

  • Larval stage: 7-9 days
  • Growth to maturity: 6-8 months
  • Total lifespan: 2-3 years

Their rapid growth makes prawns a sustainable seafood choice. Most species reach maturity and reproduce before being caught.

6. Prawns are Versatile Ingredients


Prawns have a sweet, succulent taste that adapts well to many global cuisines and cooking methods including:

  • Curries and stir fries in Thai and Chinese cuisine
  • Grilled skewers in Portuguese and Spanish cuisine
  • Spicy seafood boils in Cajun and Creole cuisine
  • Garlic butter prawns in French and Italian cuisine
  • Rice and prawn dishes in Latin American cuisine

Their firm texture also makes them perfect for pasta dishes, tacos, sandwiches, and more.

7. Prawning is a Popular Recreational Activity

Recreational prawning using hand nets and traps is a beloved outdoor activity in many coastal communities worldwide. It occurs both on ocean beaches as well as in lakes and rivers inland.

Some popular recreational prawn species include:

  • Giant river prawn in Southeast Asia
  • Akiami paste shrimp in Hawaii
  • Spot prawn in the Pacific Northwest
  • Greentail prawn in Australia

8. Prawns Communicate by Snapping Their Claws

Prawns produce snapping and popping sounds with their claws to establish dominance, defend territory, and attract mates (). The loud snaps can even stun small prey.

Specialized muscles near the base of their claws allow them to quickly pull the parts together. This creates enough force to generate a cavitation bubble that collapses with a loud pop.

9. Some Species Migrate Long Distances

While some prawn species live their whole lives in coastal estuaries and rivers, others embark on extensive open ocean migrations:

  • Northern prawn – Migrates up to 900 miles between feeding and spawning grounds.
  • Southern rough shrimp – Seasonal migrations along the Atlantic coast up to 700 miles.
  • Akiami paste shrimp – Makes a 500 mile circle migration in Hawaii.

These marathon migrations are driven by breeding and seasonal food availability.

10. Prawns Help Control Algae Growth

Prawns provide an important ecological role in their habitats by controlling algal growth. As they graze, they trim the tips of algae, preventing overgrowth.

In places where prawn populations have declined, some harmful algal blooms have increased – demonstrating their strong influence.

11. Some Species Glow in the Dark

Several deep sea prawn species have bioluminescent properties – they produce their own light through a chemical reaction. These include:

  • Firefly squid – Glowing spots help attract prey.
  • Midwater shrimp – Glowing photophores likely aid communication in the darkness.
  • Loosejaw prawn – Lures prey by waving a glowing antenna.

The glowing light of these species helps them thrive in the eternal darkness of deep sea habitats.

Frequently Asked Questions About Prawns

Are prawns healthy to eat?

Yes, prawns are a healthy seafood choice. They are high in protein, low in fat, and provide important vitamins and minerals. Prawns also contain omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants that deliver additional health benefits.

How should you cook prawns?

There are many great ways to cook prawns. Quick cooking methods like grilling, pan searing, and stir frying are perfect to avoid overcooking. They also work well in curries, seafood boils, pasta dishes, tacos, and more.

Do prawns need to be deveined?

Deveining prawns is optional. The digestive tract or “vein” running along the back of the prawn is not actually a vein, and it’s not poisonous. Removing it before cooking has minimal impact on flavor but does improve appearance.

Are fresh or frozen prawns better?

Both fresh and frozen prawns can deliver great flavor. Freezing helps lock in flavor and nutrients. Thaw frozen prawns overnight in the fridge before cooking. If buying fresh, look for firm prawns with clear eyes and no off odors.

Should you peel prawns before cooking?

It’s often easiest to cook prawns in the shell, and then peel after cooking. But shell-on prawns can also be messy to eat. For presentations like prawn cocktails, salads, or pasta, peel raw prawns before marinating and cooking.

So there you have it – 11 fascinating facts about these succulent shellfish! From their extensive migrations to their snapping claws and glowing bodies, prawns have captivated palates and imaginations across cultures. Their global popularity is sure to continue.

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