Tuesday, October 10, 2006



You may never have seen shrimp like this ... all nekid with no crispy breading or bed of pasta. Face to face, they have a silly, comical look to them. I think it's the eyes that make them appear goofy. Those compound eyes on moveable stalks allow them a wide field of vision ... pretty important when you are small, tastey, and mostly defenseless.

If you look carefully, you can see the 2 pairs of antennae. If you are a shrimp, the two short ones are used for balance and sensing whether you are upright or not. The two longer ones are for smelling and tasting your environment.

The legs you see above are called walking legs. The shrimp uses them to ... walk.
There should be 5 pairs of these, hence the group name Decapoda, or "ten legs".
Swimming is done calmly with tiny legs beneath the abdomen called swimmerets. My fingers are hiding the swimmerets from view (clever me). When the shrimp is frightened, they swim rapidly backwards by bending the abdomen forward and flairing their tail. The drops of water on the camera lens are from this shrimp doing just that as I held it.


Running right between the eyes is a long, sharp, jagged spine called the "rostrum". By flicking it's head, the shrimp can inflict a painful stick to an unwary handler.

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Beautiful swimmers, the blue crab, are also decapods. They share the 2 pair of antennae, stalked compound eyes, and ten legs. The claws (chelipeds) of the crab are just modified legs, so you have to count them.

The last pair of legs are paddle shaped swimming legs, the middle three legs are pointy walking legs, and the front chelipeds are adapted for grabbing, cutting , and crushing. Blue crabs are incredibly quick on the pinch and very defensive. Grabbing one like this with one hand while photographing with the other took some doing. In the end, I wound up slinging the crab back into the river just after the photo op. It had just figured out that it could get me with those pincers by reaching under it's abdomen.

The colors on a blue crab are spectacular. Their topside is more subtle and camouflaged, but the claws and legs have beautiful highlights of blue and red. Blue crabs are tastey, but you will work for the meat you glean from their armored little bodies.

No lobsters were encountered during my solo decapodessy on the St. Johns River last week, (really not their neighborhood)but they are also decapods.

This has been another installment in "If You Only Knew The Animals You Chew".

It's good to appreciate the other side of their story.

I don't know about you, but ...

... I can appreciate and chew at the same time.


Hurricane Teen said...

Every time I see live shrimp I always feel kind of bad that I am about to pinch their heads off. But once they're on the plate, I don't feel so bad anymore :-D

pissed off patricia said...

I'm on the east coast of Florida and now after reading your post I feel kind of guilty but not enough to make me stop enjoying these little creatures on the table. My husband is a marine biologist so we do appreciate the life in the ocean on every level.

Very nice informative post and photos.

vicki said...

Today, you and Wayne have these beautiful photographs of, um, oddities. Yours are not really odd- just a closer view to a familiar creature. As long as I get mine peeled and de-veined, I can do the disconnect and relish them. But between the closeups and little anthropomorphic captions this fellow could be somebody's pet. Wayne's is just odd, poor fellow.

roger said...

your shrimp tales are intriguing. i'm sure i've read that there are shrimp somewhere local here in puget sound. i'm gonna get some. i might need a boat. good thing we're almost done with our house remodel.

robin andrea said...

Very informative, FC. I enjoy your close encounters with wildlife. Nice colors on the blue crab.

Laura said...

Well! this was educational. NOw that I know all about their feelings, I'm going to have a hard time eating them. At least, before the first bite.

I've decided to show this post to the girls, as well, thanks!

LauraHinNJ said...

Shrimp are the only type of seafood I really like. Now I feel guilty for it - what cute little googly-eyed faces they have.

Sophie said...

My hat's off to you for beheading hundreds. I only did a couple pounds the other day and about halfway through, I was ready to relegate them to the bait bucket. The end result was worth it, but I think I'll just buy them ready-to-cook next time.

I did enjoy your wildflower pics. I just love driving down the forest roads when they're all lined with yellow. 8-]

swamp4me said...

I, too, can appreciate and chew. Were I to drown in your lovely Florida waters and all my bits and pieces were to drift to the bottom, I feel certain the critters would have no qualms whatsoever in partaking - we are all part of the cycle.

Mrs. S said...

Oh, great - you broke me; too much useful information, too early in the day ;) Now I know how your students feel!

Leslie said...

I'm so glad you got a digital camera.

The sky is so blue, and the water looks to be a beautiful blue as well. Lovely!

I didn't know about the rostrum. I've been shrimping but don't recall handling the live shrimp. We went at night and hung a lantern off a dock in a... (channel? Place where boat traffic goes).. and the shrimp show up translucent under the light. Scoop with a net, and dump into a styrofoam cooler. I don't know if that's still legal. We did it back around '76 near Largo/St. Pete.

Leslie said...

P.S. - Roger, if you can still shrimp off the end of the dock you don't need a boat. We just waded out in our shorts and tennis shoes.

Betsy said...

Callinectes sapida ... beatiful tasty swimmer, indeed.

Gene Maudlin said...

Knowledge is golden when it comes from your hands and mind. Very nice, Cracker.

Deb said...

I haven't seen shrimp with heads in years...

Nice decapodessy!

Floridacracker said...

That little shudder they do as you pinch is kind of disconcerting ...

Me too, all levels. Above and below the water. Thanks for visiting!

Actually, they are great in an aquarium ... very endearing. Something odd at Wayne's? I can't imagine :)

you must be ready to come off the scaffolding. any excuse for a boat is a good one :)

Blue crabs are fascinating... they really deserve their own post.

Good to the last drop! ... of cocktail sauce. :) Hope the girls enjoy it.

Exactly, "googly-eyed" cuteness. It's their curse to be tastey too.

Heading is monotonous, that's for sure.
The wild flowers are just getting better. The blazing star is starting to kick in.

We think alike. I almost put that exact thought in the post.

Mrs. S,
I'll try to be less informative :)

Yes, still legal and still done that way. You described the technique used on the east central and west central coasts. I didn't realize you had FL experience ... thought you were just an expert rabbit rancher, sauce maker, atv rider.

A+. Don't they have the most lyrical scientific name?


Glad you enjoyed it. Headless, they are alot less charming.

Abandoned in Pasadena said...

The shrimp are really cute little creatures and I'm going to have to forget what I saw here because they're also one of my favorite foods...and I'm not going to give them up.

Thanks for the really educational post and the close up and personal view of the shrimp. I really enjoy your teaching posts. I didn't overlook the crab, but he wasn't as cute.

Floridacracker said...

Thanks, and I agree. The crabs don't have the cute factor going on.