Northern Shrimp | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Northern Shrimp

Pandalus borealis

Also known as

Northern prawn, deepwater prawn, pink shrimp


Northwest Atlantic and northeast Pacific Ocean


Soft bottoms with features that provide protection

Feeding Habits

Foraging omnivore

Conservation Status

Not listed


Subphylum Crustacea (crabs, shrimps, and relatives); Family Penaeidae (prawns)


Facebook Twitter Pinterest Google+

Northern shrimp, also commonly known as northern prawn, are a sequential hermaphrodite. This is a term used for animals that start their life as one sex and change to the other later in life. In the case of northern shrimp, they are born as males and become females at around four or five years of age. This type of hermaphroditism is common in many other species of fish and gastropods (like snails and slugs). The common clownfish, like Nemo from the movie Finding Nemo, is another species that exhibits sequential hermaphroditism. 

Northern shrimp breed in the fall and reach sexual maturity as males at around age two. The male will grasp onto a female and transfer a packet of sperm to the underside of her abdomen. The female will then release eggs, which become fertilized as they pass over the sperm packet and onto the hair-like structures on the underside of her legs. The eggs remain attached throughout the winter as they develop and are protected by the overhanging abdominal plates of the female. When the eggs are ready to hatch in the spring and early summer, the female will fan water under her abdomen using her legs, which releases the larvae.  Between 2,000 and 4,000 newly hatched larvae will be released by the female, which will swim throughout the water column for the majority of their first summer. At the end of the summer, after they have moulted their exoskeleton several times, they will settle to the ocean floor to begin their juvenile stage. At about two years of age, they will moult again and become sexually mature males. After breeding for at least one or two years as males, they will gradually transform permanently into females, typically during their fourth summer. Northern shrimp will typically live to around six years of age, however they are thought to live longer than eight years in the most northern parts of their range.