Among the bounty of creatures living in the world’s oceans, shrimp are perhaps the most widely known marine crustacea.
They are found all over the globe, and they are widely incorporated into the diets of the majority of cultures in existence.
They are tiny, intriguing creatures living on the bottom of the oceans and play a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the sea.
Different species of shrimp can vary in the appearance of their physical characteristics.
However, the bodily characteristics of the decapod shrimp are extremely common throughout the 2,000 different types currently known to exist.
Their bodies are divided into two parts: the thorax and the head.
The two components are connected by the cephalothorax and a narrow abdomen.
The body itself is protected by a hard shell known as the carapace.
The mouth of the shrimp works in conjunction with its gills.
Guarded by the hard exterior shell, the gills allow it to derive oxygen from the surrounding waters.
Its legs, eyes, and rostrum also grow out of their hard shell.
In order to protect themselves from predators, shrimp possess a sharp beak or nose, called the rostrum, that extends off the head of their body.
This beak also serves as a stabilizer when swimming backwards and forwards in the water.
Shrimp acquire their food either by sifting through the sand of the ocean floor or filtering the surrounding waters to ingest small particles of various plant or animal species.
Because they will eat both types of proteins, they are considered to be omnivorous.
The bulk of their diet is composed of algae and plankton matter.
Shrimp pose very little threat when it comes to consuming other animals and plants.
However, they are prey to a huge number of larger species, especially humans.
Like fish, shrimp primarily travel, breed, and eat in schools.
They can easily adapt to new conditions in the water, accounting for their vast numbers in every ocean on earth.
Because of their small size, it is advantageous for them to stay in groups in order to protect themselves from larger predators.
Their actual size is typically between 0.1 and 2 inches in length.
Despite their stature, these creatures can still fall victim to microscopic parasites.
They often develop mutually beneficial relationships with sea cucumbers or sea slugs in order to remove any ectoparasites.
Within their schools, there is audio communication that occurs as well.
Snapping and clicking is thought to play a role in both how they socialize and how they intimidate other marine life.
A single female shrimp is capable of producing a large number of offspring.
One shrimp can lay up to one million eggs in a single session.
The eggs take only two weeks to hatch.
Once born, the baby shrimp merge with the plankton in the environment in order to protect and feed themselves until they are large enough to hunt in groups for larger particles for nourishment.
The large number of offspring is vital in allowing the species to flourish due to their short life-span.
The average shrimp will only live for one to two years.
Being an extremely versatile species, shrimp are able to thrive beneath the surface of any body of water as long as there is ample food.
They can survive in both freshwater and saltwater conditions.
These invertebrates tend to congregate in the largest numbers near coastal regions and in estuaries where the food supply is plentiful.
The type of species that is present in any location is typically specific to that region and adapted for the particular surroundings.
The majority of shrimp are marine creatures while a quarter of the shrimp population is found in freshwater sources. Shrimp can survive in waters that are up to 16,000 feet deep.
As a species, shrimp are facing many threats to their survival.
Overfishing by man is the primary danger they now must overcome.
Their conservation status has recently been changed to threatened.
In addition to overfishing, mankind is also destroying their natural habitats through pollution, drilling, and oil spills.
Their natural predators include a huge variety of marine life.