Shrimp vs Prawn

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At a seafood restaurant you order an item off the menu and fifteen minutes later a plate of steaming pink C-shaped food comes back.

It is generally accompanied with some dipping sauces and a lemon slice or two. Depending on the country in which you are living, this dish may either called shrimp or prawns. However, the same dish may or may not bear any relation to what you are actually eating. In terms of consumption, there is no noticeable difference between a shrimp and prawn even though some subtle differences may be found in the wild.

Taxonomy of a Shrimp and a Prawn
Shrimp is a crustacean that belongs to the order Decapoda and the suborder Pleocyemata.
Prawn is a crustacean that belongs to the order Decapoda and the suborder Dendrobranchiata.
 The differing suborders mean that there are significant morphological differences between shrimp and prawns.

Morphology of Shrimp and Prawns
Shrimp have a thin but hard exoskeleton. Their bodies are divided into three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen. The thorax overlaps the other two body segments. They have three pairs of legs in the front and their gills are plate-like in structure.

Prawns have the same exoskeleton and body segmentation as shrimp. However, in prawns, the head overlaps the thorax, and the thorax overlaps the abdomen. They also have longer legs than shrimp. Finally, the gills of a prawn have a branching structure.

Eating Shrimp and Prawns
Shrimp is the term commonly used to describe both shrimp and prawns in North America.

Prawns is the terminology employed by the British and their former colonies to describe this crustacean. If a Britisher refers to a shrimp, he is probably talking about an unrelated crustacean that is used to make potted shrimp.

Sustainable Harvesting and Fishing of Shrimp and Prawns
Shrimp the industry has been working to find sustainable methods of farming shrimp in coastal plantations. The United States is a leader in sustainable practices. Shrimp fishing, especially by trawler, is very damaging to local ecosystems because it is the single largest producer of by catch.
 

Prawns are more likely to be farmed in Asian countries. The lax regulations of these farming industries can denude coastlines and produce prawns that hold a lot of incidental toxins. Similar to shrimp fishing, prawn fishing also often employs trawler, creating a lot of undesirable by catch.

Summary:

1. Shrimp and prawns are closely related crustaceans that are considered a gourmet food throughout most of the world.

2. Shrimp and prawns look very similar, but differ in the distribution of their body segments, the length of their legs, and the structure of their gills.

3. Shrimp is common terminology for either crustacean in North American, whereas most of the rest of the world uses prawn for the animals.