Common Prawn

Is it a prawn or is it a shrimp? It doesn’t matter

Author: Pat
12th May 2015

The terms shrimp and prawn often get thrown around in regards to the same invertebrate: there is no taxonomic difference between prawns and shrimps, so the term is interchangeable.

found in conger dens, cleaning up the eel’s messy feeding habits

However, larger individuals are referred to as prawns and smaller ones as shrimp. There are several species of prawns in the UK that all look very similar and the common prawn (Palaemon serratus) is the largest of these. It can reach up to 11 centimetres in length with a transparent body, brown stripes and yellow markings on the legs.

Common prawns belong to the same sub-phylum as crabs and lobsters: the crustaceans. Crustaceans have a hard exoskeleton and jointed appendages. For the common prawn the front pair of legs are small pincers, which aid in collecting prey off the seabed as they walk around. They can carry out small, backwards swimming bursts using their tails.

Groups of prawns will often be found together in shallow rock pools down through most diveable depths. One hangout location you would not expect is among conger eel dens, acting as a clean up crew for the eel’s messy feeding habits.

Common prawns are a commercial important species and within the UK there are several commercial fisheries in the southwest region and in Scotland. Overfishing is a distinct possibility.


  • Around conger eel hideouts, rock pools and rocky reefs, wrecks
  • From shallow water down to a depth of 50meters
  • Found throughout the Atlantic Ocean even within the Mediterranean sea

Key identifying features

  • Yellow markings on the legs and arm joints.
  • Transparent body
  • Brown strips

Conservation status

  • Not evaluated

Compiled by Ellie Richards, a marine biologist and enthusiastic UK diver. Check out Ellie’s page on Instagram

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