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Amongst the most popular types of seafood are prawns and shrimp. Prawn and shrimp meat feature a sweet, delicate flavor and are a rich source of protein, calcium and antioxidants like selenium. The words 'prawn' and 'shrimp' are often used interchangeably in restaurants, cook books and markets. This terminology differs from nation to nation. For example, what is generally referred to as a shrimp in the US, is considered to be prawn in England. In the culinary circles, the term prawn is used to describe a large shrimp, whereas, in other circles, the term shrimp is used to describe both prawns and shrimp. Moreover, to increase complications, in some regions the term prawn is used to describe both prawns and shrimp.

Prawns and shrimp bear semblance to each other in terms of appearance and taste, however, biologically they are not the same creatures. Before heading into prawns vs. shrimp discussion, let us find out the similarities between these two, due to which they are often mistaken to be the same.

Similarities between Prawns and Shrimp

A quick look at prawn and shrimp will conduce to the idea that they are one and the same creature. In fact it's virtually impossible to differentiate between the two. Physically they look similar and also have similar flavors. These two creatures are decapod crustaceans, which means they both exhibit similar exoskeletons and feature 10 legs. The body segmentation is also the same.

They are typically found swimming in salt and freshwater sources across the globe, in search of food. Prawns and shrimp tend to dwell near the ocean floor and come in scores of sizes, from minuscule to large. Moreover, both require to shed their shells during growth stages. They are also known to be high in omega 3 fatty acids and are low in saturated fats. The high level of good fats in shrimp and prawns reduces the level of bad cholesterol in the blood.

Dissimilarities between Prawns and Shrimp

Despite the similarities, shrimp and prawns are separate species and have some distinguishing features that separates the two. Let us have a look at these slight distinguishing features.

Biological Classification
To the bare eye, the two may appear identical but they are biologically different. Prawns and shrimp belong to the same order, Decapoda, but different suborders. This itself is a major differentiating factor. Prawns belong to the suborder Dendrobranchiata, while shrimp belong to the suborder Pleocyemata.

Gill Structure
The primary visual differentiating factor between the shrimp and prawn is the gill structure. Prawns feature branching gills. On the other hand, shrimp have lamellar gills, which are plate-like in structure.

Abdominal Segments
Examination of second abdominal segment is the easiest and most practical way of differentiating between shrimp and prawns. In case of shrimp, the second segment overlaps the first and third segment, whereas, in case of prawn, the second segment only overlaps the third segment. This is an important distinguishing feature between the two.

Chelate Leg Pairs
In prawns, the first three pairs of legs are chelate or claw-like. However, in shrimp only the first two pair of legs exhibit chelation.

Other Distinguishing Features
Besides these main distinguishing factors, some other factors that differentiate the two include the front pincers of shrimp that are typically the largest. However, prawns feature bigger second pincers. Prawns also feature longer legs as compared to shrimp. Moreover, female prawns shed their eggs into the currents, wherein the eggs develop independently. Shrimp on the other hand, brood their eggs.

There are scores of varieties of shrimp and prawns that are harvested for consumption. There is the pink, brown, white, spot, royal red, etc. type of shrimp, which are not only delicious, but also unique in flavor. Prawns on the other hand, include varieties like deep water, king, banana and tiger prawns. When prepared properly both shrimp recipes as well as prawns pacify the palette.