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Common Grass Shrimp

Palaemonetes pugio

The common grass shrimp's body is segmented and nearly transparent. (Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons)
The common grass shrimp's body is segmented and nearly transparent. (Brian Gratwicke/Wikimedia Commons)

The common grass shrimp has a delicate, nearly transparent body with a distinctive serrated “horn” over the eyes. It lives in shallow waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

Appearance:

The common grass shrimp has a segmented, nearly transparent body that is compressed on either side. It has a pointed, serrated “horn” that extends over its eyes. Its first two pairs of walking legs have claws. The shrimp grows to 1.5 inches in length.

Habitat:

Shallow waters, often among bay grass beds. May move to warmer, deeper waters in winter.

Range:

Found throughout most of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal rivers.

Feeding:

Grass shrimp forage for worms, algae and tiny crustaceans.

Predators:

Small fish such as sunfish and killifish feed on grass shrimp.

Reproduction and Life Cycle:

Usually spawns in summer, when water temperatures warm. Females must molt before mating. The female carries her eggs in a brood pouch, visible through the shrimp’s transparent body. Eggs hatch into free-swimming larvae after 12-20 days. Larvae go through several developmental phases over the first 1-2 months of life. Grass shrimp live approximately one year.

Other Facts:

  • The common grass shrimp is the most abundant of the four species of grass shrimp known to live in the Bay.
  • They often carry a parasitic isopod, Probopyrus pandalicola, which looks like a bulge near the shrimp’s gill area.
  • Grass shrimp are an important ecological indicator of human impacts on estuaries and other water bodies.

Sources and Additional Information:




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