Shrimp anatomy

Table of Contents

Do you know that nearly 2,500 species of shrimp have been identified so far? This aquatic crustacean has made its way to the people’s food basket in the world. But to what extent do we know the most important supplier of the protein we need? In this article, we will examine the different body parts of shrimp and the function of each one.

The shrimp have three general body parts: head, thorax, and abdomen. The body of the shrimp has 19 parts, 5 parts are related to the head, 8 parts are related to the thorax and 6 parts are related to the abdominal part. The tail segment is connected to the sixth abdominal segment.                                   

Each of these parts has its own functions.


The head and thorax are fused together to form the cephalothorax which contains most of the internal organs. These organs are covered with a carapace, which has a protective role. The front part of the carapace is the rostrum which plays as a stabilizer and it can be used for attack or defense, too. Different parts of the cephalothorax are:

1- Stalked eyes: shrimp have compound eyes. Their eyes are located on the eyestalks which give them a panoramic vision.

2- Antennule: its function is in the sensory reception of the environment.

3-Antenna: in addition to the sensory reception of the environment, this antenna provides stability while swimming.

4- Mandibles: it is used to grind food.

5- Maxillule: its role is to transfer food to the mouth.

6- Maxillae: its function is similar to maxillule, in transferring food to the mouth.

7- Maxillipeds (jaw feet): The first and second pair of jaw feet act like maxillule and maxillae, and the third pair have a role in movement.

8- Pereiopods (walking legs): these legs help shrimp in moving on the bed, digging holes, grabbing food, fighting and mating.


This part has six segments and is connected to the head-thorax part and the last part is telson. The first five segments have a pair of appendages, which are considered pleopods (swimmerets). The sixth segment ends with the telson that has two pairs of appendages called the uropods. The last part of the alimentary canal is located at the end of the body under the telson. Each segments are covered by a separate overlapping shell. These shells are ring-like and due to the existence of synovial membranes, they make the shrimp body flexible during swimming and movement.

Tail Fan

This part consists of the uropod and the telson, which together form the tail fan. The function is to keep the stability of the shrimp while swimming.

The following picture shows the different parts of a shrimp.

Different parts of shrimp and their recipes:

If we ask you to name the shrimp recipes, you will quickly answer frying, boiling, grilling, etc.

But if we ask you what are the most suitable recipes for different parts of shrimp, maybe a small percentage of you can answer.

Shrimp head: consider the shrimp head, it itself can be cooked. You can make a delicious soup with it. You can also boil it, take its extract and use it in making sauce.

Shrimp shell: Have you ever fried shrimp shell? Yes, you heard right! Shrimp shell has a good taste and we recommend removing and washing them, then adding salt and spices and frying them in oil.

Shrimp meat: how can the shrimp meat be cooked?  Its meat is the main part for food consumption. You can boil, grill, smoke, fry it in oil or make a delicious soup with it.

The next time you buy shrimp, keep all the parts. There are many recipes for different parts of shrimp in the world that you can taste and enjoy these new flavors.

Other uses of shrimp, behind the scenes:

Due to shrimp’s high amount of protein and minerals, it has an important role in people’s food basket. But have you ever thought about the other uses of this creature?

In shrimp processing factories, a lot of waste such as heads and shells are found which has valuable compounds. Today, shrimp waste is used for different purposes in various industries. This is good news for environmentalists since it causes the removal of waste from the environment and its return to the production cycle.

Chitin: shrimp shell is a rich source of chitin. It is a derivative of glucose and does not dissolve in water. Chitin has a great commercial value and has many uses in agriculture, food industry, medical products, biotechnology, etc.

Chitosan: it is another substance extracted from shrimp shell and it is a type of dietary fiber. Due to its unique features, such as non-toxicity, degradability and biocompatibility, it has various uses in the medicinal, food, agricultural industries, etc.

Carotenoids: natural pigments, called carotenoids, are obtained from shrimp waste (head and carapace). Carotenoids are used in pharmacy, food supplements as pigments and antioxidants.

Another use of shrimp waste is in the production of organic fertilizers as well as feed for aquatic animals, livestock and poultry.

The many uses of shrimp waste have made it a profitable resource, and it is obvious that we will see the discovery of new uses for it in the next years.

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