Litopenaeus vannamei — Overview

Pacific White Shrimp, White Shrimp learn more about names for this taxon


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Whiteleg shrimp

Whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei, formerly Penaeus vannamei), also known as Pacific white shrimp, is a variety of prawn of the eastern Pacific Ocean commonly caught or farmed for food.


Litopenaeus vannamei grows to a maximum length of 230 millimetres (9.1 in), with a carapace length of 90 mm (3.5 in).[2] Adults live in the ocean, at depths of up to 72 metres (236 ft), while juveniles live in estuaries.[2] The rostrum is moderately long, with 7–10 teeth on the dorsal side and 2–4 teeth on the ventral side.[2]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

Whiteleg shrimp are native to the eastern Pacific Ocean, from the Mexican state of Sonora as far south as northern Peru.[2] It is restricted to areas where the water temperature remains above 20 °C (68 °F) throughout the year.[3]

Fishery and aquaculture[edit]

During the 20th century, L. vannamei was an important species for Mexican inshore fishermen, as well as for trawlers further offshore.[2] In the late 20th century, the wild fishery was overtaken by the use of aquaculture; this began in 1973 in Florida using prawns captured in Panama.[3] In Latin America, the culture of L. vannamei showed peaks of production during the warm El Niño years, and reduced production during the cooler La Niña years, due to the effects of disease.[3] Production of L. vannamei is limited by its susceptibility to various diseases, including white spot syndrome, Taura syndrome, infectious hypodermal and haematopoietic necrosis, baculoviral midgut gland necrosis and Vibrio infections.[3] By 2004, global production of L. vannamei approached 1,116,000 t, and exceeded that of Penaeus monodon.[3]

In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the whiteleg shrimp to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."[4] The reasons given by Greenpeace were "destruction of vast areas of mangroves in several countries, over-fishing of juvenile shrimp from the wild to supply shrimp farms, and significant human rights abuses".[4]

Aquarium trade[edit]

In the saltwater reef aquarium, young Penaeus vannamei can be used as live food for fish and invertebrates, particularly to entice picky eaters to start eating in a new tank. P. vannamei is often added to the aquarium's refugium to allow aquarists to easily raise the shrimp as food in the main display tank.


  1. ^ "Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931)". Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Penaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931)". Species Fact Sheets. Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  3. ^ a b c d e "Penaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931)". Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme. Food and Agriculture Organization. Retrieved June 8, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Greenpeace International Seafood Red list


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