Black Tiger Prawn
Synonym(s): Penaeus bubulus, Penaeus coeruleus, Penaeus semisulcatus exsutcatus
Photographer: Wikimedia Commons
The black tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon) or tiger shrimp is an aggressive mollusc that can grow to a foot in length and weigh a pound. In addition to it's unusually large size, it can be identified by black stripes across the dorsal side of the tail. It can also be black in body color with orange stripes on it's back, resembling a tiger.
Ecological Threat: Introduction of the aggressive tiger prawn endangers native shrimp that are preyed upon by this invasive shrimp due to the size difference. Native shrimp species are also at risk of contracting diseases that the tiger prawn carries, resulting in further mortality of native populations. The tiger shrimp is known to be susceptible to 16 diseases and is capable of transferring them to other shrimp species (Humans are not at risk). Disease and predation from the invasive tiger prawn can have a devastating effect on harvesting native shrimp species resulting in an economic loss for shrimp fishermen.
Biology: With a life span of 3 years the tiger shrimp are believed to be reproducing in waters south of the Gulf of Mexico, but migrating north following mating. It is not clear how the tiger shrimp are completing the migration north, but pending genetic testing is said to provide answers regarding mating and migration.
History: The tiger prawn was accidentally released from a research facility near South Carolina in 1988, allowing the shrimp to spread as far south as Florida by 1990. As a popular shrimp raised in farms in the Caribbean, authorities were surprised when captures ceased following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. However, tiger prawns were captured again in 2006 and have been consistently captured to the present.
Habitat: Tiger prawns prefer warm water and are thus limited to southern states and migrations further south to maintain a desired habitat. It can be found in estuarine or marine habitats on the ocean floor in the sediment.
Native Origin: Indian Ocean
U.S. Present: Gulf of Mexico, AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX
Texas: Aransas Bay, Sabine Lake near the Louisiana border, and in the gulf about 70 miles from Freeport
Local Gulf Coast authorities are urging fishermen to report any unusual shrimp catches and not to throw back any tiger prawns that are caught and identified. In order to prevent establishment of the tiger shrimp, it is highly encouraged to catch, sell, or eat the invasive tiger prawn. The tiger shrimp yields a high economic value with a large size and sweet taste qualifying it to be farmed by many shrimp farmers in the Caribbean. However, the farming of the invasive tiger prawn is prohibited in the state of Texas.
FAO CATALOGUE Vol.1 - Shrimps and Prawns of the World. An Annotated Catalogue of Species of Interest to Fisheries.L.B. Holthuis 1980. FAO Fisheries Synopsis No.125, Volume 1.
McCann, J. A., L. N. Arkin, and J. D. Williams. 1996. Nonindigenous aquatic and selected terrestrial species of Florida. University of Florida, Center for Aquatic Plants, Gainesville, Florida. http://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/mctitle.html.
NAS fact sheet - http://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/factsheet.aspx?SpeciesID=1209
Sikes, David. 2011. Invasive Black Tiger Shrimp Prove a Genuine Threat to Gulf Shrimp Populations. <http://www.caller.com/news/2011/dec/27>