Atlantic White Shrimp
Scientific Name: Litopenaeus setiferus
Description: Atlantic white shrimp is a species of prawn that was the first commercially important shrimp in the United States. Their bodies are bluish-white in color with slightly pink sides and tail flippers that are black near the base with green and yellow margins. They have long antennae and a long, toothed rostrum (a long extension out in front of the eyes). They have 10 walking legs and 10 swimming legs that they use to swim, burrow and crawl.
Size: They are typically about 7-8 inches in length, and females are slightly larger than males. The antennae of Atlantic white shrimp can be up to 3 times the length of their body.
Diet: Shrimp will feed on most any organic material they come across at the bottom of a body of water. Prey include plankton, amphipods, nematodes, isopods, copepods, small fishes, crabs and other shrimp.
Predation: Water boatmen, grass shrimp, sheepshead minnows, killifish and blue crabs feed on larval and post-larval shrimp. A variety of fish feed on juvenile and adult shrimp.
Typical Lifespan: Atlantic white shrimp rarely live longer than two years and most die before they reach eight to nine months.
Habitat: Atlantic white shrimp prefer shallow, warm, low salinity waters to about 90 feet deep with organic-rich, muddy bottoms. They actually require water temperatures above 37 °Fahrenheit to survive.
Range: Along the Atlantic coast from New York to Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico.
Life History and Reproduction: White shrimp spawn in the spring along the coast from the beach to several miles offshore. A single female produces between 500,000 and 1,000,000 eggs. The male transfers a packet of sperm called a spermatophore to the female and it is attached to her underside. Eggs are ejected by the female and fertilized as they pass the spermatophore. The eggs sink to the floor of the ocean, where they hatch within 24 hours. The larvae go through about 10 different phases before they start to look like adult shrimp. They move into estuaries where they inhabit seagrass beds, tidal marshes and creeks as they continue to mature. After about two to three months they will reach adult size and move gradually towards to the ocean.
White shrimp can jump from the water to evade predators with a rapid tail flex –a snap to the tail that propels them backwards.
Conservation Status: Abundant. They are currently not being overfished. There is some concern about the health of shrimp following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and due to climate change.