When it comes to seafood, the overwhelming variety of options can often confuse people about the species of what they are eating. One such confusion is whether shrimp is a fish or not. Many people still mistakenly think that shrimp is a type of fish, when in reality it is not. Shrimp are taxonomically and organically classified as arthropods, which means they are closely related to insects, crabs, and lobsters. Let us find out exactly how shrimps are different from fish in terms of taxonomy, biology, physical structure, etc.
What is shrimp?
Shrimp are small, aquatic crustaceans that can be found in both freshwater and saltwater environments around the world. Shrimps have thousands of species that adapted to the varying circumstances of their different habitats all around the world. They can live on the seafloors of coastal areas as well in ponds, lakes or small rivers.
Now, taxonomically speaking, shrimps belong to the phylum Arthropoda, subphylum Crustacea, class Malacostraca, and order Decapoda. These tiny creatures have elongated bodies with multiple segments, a tough exoskeleton, and five pairs of legs, with the first pair typically adapted into claws. Shrimp come in a variety of sizes, ranging from a few centimetres to several inches in length, depending on the species.
Shrimps have an important role in keeping the ecological food chain alive. They often act as prey for many bigger fishes and other sea animals. Moreover, they are widely and popularly consumed by humans of almost every different culture in the world. You can cook shrimp by boiling, frying, putting it into soups and stir-fries, and so on.
How is shrimp different from fish?
As we know, shrimp is a highly favoured seafood option, often grouped with other types of fish when discussing delicious dishes from the sea. As a result, it is not uncommon for people to assume that shrimp is, in fact, a type of fish. However, this assumption is not true.
Now, in order to understand the differences between shrimp and fish we need to look at the definition and characteristics of fish. Taxonomically speaking, all the species of fish belong to the phylum Chordata and subphylum Vertebrata. Therefore, fish have a stable backbone that is made of lots of tiny bones, forming a complete internal skeleton.
Shrimps, on the other hand, belonging to the phylum Arthropoda and subphylum Crustacea, have their skeleton on the exterior, surrounding their bodies. This is known as having an exoskeleton, or a “shell”, which earns shrimps the name “shellfish.”The exoskeleton serves as a protective covering for the shrimp's body, shielding it from potential predators and environmental hazards.
Again, even structurally shrimps are vastly different from fish. Shrimps have 10 sets of legs, or limbs that they use to swim backwards or to crawl from one place to another. On the other hand, fish do not have any distinguishable sets of limbs, rather they use their fins to swim from place to place.
Therefore, it is clear that shrimp and fish are very different from each other, and therefore, shrimp is not a fish.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are shellfish also fish?
We can see how this would add to the confusion even more, but no, shellfish are not fish. Rather, shellfish is a term used to describe a group of aquatic animals that possess a shell or hard exoskeleton. This group includes various species such as crustaceans ( shrimps, crabs, lobsters, etc.), molluscs and echinoderms. Shellfish are not vertebrates and do not have a backbone, which means they are not part of the class Pisces which is the class of fish.
Are prawns and shrimp the same?
In everyday conversation, people often use the words "prawn" and "shrimp" interchangeably to describe these crustaceans. However, it's essential to recognize that they are not the same thing scientifically. Prawns and shrimp belong to different suborders within the Decapoda order. They are very similar in terms of appearance, taste, and usage; which is why often one gets called by the name of the other one.
However, if you want to differentiate, as a rule of thumb, prawns are typically bigger than shrimps in size.
In conclusion, the confusion surrounding whether shrimp is a fish or not is understandable, given the vast variety of seafood options available. However, after an in-depth comparison between fish and shrimp, it is evident that they are distinct creatures with significant differences. Despite their differences though, both shrimp and fish hold essential ecological roles and are enjoyed as delicious seafood options worldwide. Therefore, if you are a lover of seafood, we would suggest you indulge in both shrimp and the various types of fish in order to enjoy your culinary experience to the fullest.