Common prawn (Palaemon serratus)

Pair of common prawns
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Common prawn fact file

Common prawn description

GenusPalaemon (1)

The common prawn is a well-known swimming crustacean, which is pinkish-brown in colour and features reddish spots and lines (2). The head and thorax are protected by a relatively thin carapace which, as in many species of prawns and shrimps, is drawn out into a projection between the eyes known as a ‘rostrum’ (2). The distinctive rostrum can be used to distinguish the common prawn from other species. In this species, the rostrum curves upwards, is divided in two at the tip with 6 or 7 teeth along its upper surface and 4 or 5 teeth on the underside (3). The first five segments of the abdomen bear fringed appendages known as pleopods or ‘swimmerets’ that are used to propel this prawn through the water. The first three appendages on the thorax are modified for use in feeding, and the remaining five pairs are known as the ‘pereopods’. In this species, the first and second pairs of pereopods are tipped with pincers (2). This prawn may become infected with an isopod parasite which causes large swellings, a condition known as ‘face-ache’ (2).

Leander serratus.
Length: up to 100 mm (2)

Common prawn biology

The common prawn is omnivorous. The sexes are separate, and breeding occurs between November and June. Fertilisation is external, and occurs as the eggs leave the female’s body. The female then carries the eggs around attached to hairs on her pleopods, up to 4000 eggs are carried for around 4 months. The planktoniclarvae settle in July or August and begin to breed in February of the next year (2).


Common prawn range

Found mainly around the south south-west and western coasts of Britain. Elsewhere it is found from Denmark to Mauritania, and is found in the Mediterranean and Black Seas (3).


Common prawn habitat

This species occurs offshore to depths of around 40 m (2). It may also be found on the lower levels of the shore in rock-pools amongst seaweeds (2). It may also occur in the lower parts of estuaries (3).


Common prawn status

Not threatened (2).


Common prawn threats

This species is not threatened.


Common prawn conservation

Conservation action is not needed for this species.


Find out more

For more on this species see: Fish, J.D. & Fish, S. (1989) A student’s guide to the seashore. Unwin Hyman Ltd., London.



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In arthropods (crustaceans, insects and arachnids) the abdomen is the hind region of the body, which is usually segmented to a degree (but not visibly in most spiders). In crustacea (e.g. crabs) some of the limbs attach to the abdomen; in insects the limbs are attached to the thorax (the part of the body nearest to the head) and not the abdomen. In vertebrates the abdomen is the part of the body that contains the internal organs (except the heart and lungs).
The top shell of a turtle. In arthropods (insects, crabs etc), the fused head and thorax (the part of the body located near the head) also known as ‘cephalothorax’.
Member of a diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Describes an organism that feeds on both plants and animals.
Aquatic organisms that drift with water movements; may be either phytoplankton (plants), or zooplankton (animals).
Part of the body located near the head in animals. In insects, the three segments between the head and the abdomen, each of which has a pair of legs.


  1. National Biodiversity Network Species Dictionary (September 2003)
  2. Fish, J.D. & Fish, S. (1989) A student’s guide to the seashore. Unwin Hyman Ltd., London.
  3. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A. (2001) Photographic Guide to the Sea & Shore Life of Britain and North-west Europe. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Image credit

Pair of common prawns  
Pair of common prawns

© Jim Greenfield /

Image Quest Marine
The Moos
Poffley End
OX29 9UW
United Kingdom
Tel: +44 (0) 1993 704050
Fax: +44 (0) 1993 779203


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