Meet the Crustaceans
There are thousands of species of crustaceans, both land and sea-dwelling. Those most commonly consumed for food are “decapods” due to their 10 limbs and include crabs, lobsters, prawns, shrimp and crayfish.
While they might not be fluffy, these animals have some pretty amazing characteristics – characteristics that we believe deserve greater protections!
There are more than 4,000 species of crab, with the earliest dating back to the Jurassic Period! Occupying all oceans of the world, these nifty little animals can adapt to life in both freshwater and on-land habitats and vary in physiology – from the tiny pea crab (just a few millimetres wide!) to the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of up to 4 meters.
Lobsters live in crevasses or burrows on the sea floor and are much shier than popular culture would have you believe, leading solitary lives for the most part. One exception to this rule is the spiny lobster who gather in groups of up to 50 individuals and “hold hands” as they migrate in long chains along the ocean floor!
Also known as scampi, langoustines, or Dublin Bay prawns, these animals belong to the lobster family – only smaller and pale orange in colour. Nephrops create burrows in the soft sediment of the seabed and, although primarily solitary animals, will share their burrows with others when needed. Despite being small, only 7-8 inches on average, the small but mighty nephrop can live up to 10 years!
Prawns and shrimps
The names prawn and shrimp are used interchangeably but, here in the UK, a shrimp is a very small prawn. In the US, however, it’s the other way round! Nevertheless, these animals are fascinating creatures. For example, did you know that while most fish and shellfish have no sense of direction in water, some prawns (Pandalus borealis) have a small organ that rolls around sensory sensors and provide a sense of direction. Prawns are also hermaphrodites, born as male and changing to female at around 3-5 years old.
Despite there being around 3,000 species of prawns, just two species make up 70% of those consumed as food.