Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family PENAEIDAE Rafinesque-Schmaltz, 1815

Compiler and date details

April 2012 - Peter Davie, Queensland Museum



This family includes most of the commercially important prawn species fished in Australia.

Pérez Farfante & Kensley (1997) provided the most recent revisionary work on the genera, a summary of currently recognised species, and a key to genera. There has been some controversy over their generic treatment, in particular their splitting of Penaeus sensu lato into six genera, and Trachypenaeus sensu lato into three genera. As yet, no clear taxonomic consensus has developed. However, ongoing and unpublished molecular phylogeny studies using mDNA techniques promise to provide important new information on the groupings within the Penaeidae in general, and within Penaeus, in particular. Baldwin et al. (1998) were the first to publish an analysis of Pérez Farfante & Kensley's (1997) taxa. These authors analysed 13 species in the six recognised subgenera, and found that the subgeneric assignments did not reflect evolutionary partitions within Penaeus. Maggioni et al. (2001) were critical of the results of Baldwin et al. (1998) reporting that the earlier paper had been partially based on misidentifications. Working on western Atlantic species only, they found there was support for the clades Farfantepenaeus and Litopenaeus of Pérez Farfante & Kensley. However, because of the limited nature of the study, monophyly or otherwise of Penaeus sensu lato is still not resolved. Conversely, Gusmao et al. (2000), using both nuclear (allozymes) and mitochondrial (cytochrome oxidase subunit 1) data to compare species of south-western Atlantic penaeids, found Farfantepenaeus to be polyphyletic, thus supporting the conclusions of Baldwin et al. (1998).

Another group, Lavery, Chan & Chu (S. Lavery pers. comm.) are preparing a paper in which they analyse nearly all species within Penaeus sensu lato using mDNA. So far their research does not support the division of the genus into six sub-genera, but into two groups, the grooved penaeids (Melicertus, Farfantepenaeus) and non-grooved species (Penaeus, Fenneropenaeus), including the American species. Nevertheless, they do caution that further work is needed. As Maggioni et al. (2001) show, Litopenaeus may also be a valid taxon, but as yet there does not appear to be any genetic support for the recognition of Marsupenaeus.

Because of this uncertainty over generic status, and because of the enormous commercial importance of these species and the consequent desirability of retaining some nomenclatural conservatism with regard to legislation and marketing, I therefore continue, provisionally, to use Penaeus and Trachypenaeus in their traditional sense, each containing a number of subgenera.

A major work summarising what is known of the biology of the Penaeidae is that of Dall et al. (1990). Dall (1991) provided a thorough analysis of zoogeographical patterns. Important taxonomic works in relation to Australian Penaeidae include: Dall (1957); Racek & Dall (1965); Grey et al. (1983).



Body compressed, comparatively slender. Rostrum well developed, extending to or beyond distal margin of eye; armed with dorsal and sometimes also with ventral teeth. Carapace without postorbital spine; antennal and hepatic spines usually present; cervical sulcus ending well ventral to dorsal midline. Posterior abdominal somites carinate. Telson sharply pointed, with or without lateral spines. Eye with optic calathus almost always lacking mesial tubercle; basal article of eyestalk produced into moderately to slightly developed, never freely projecting, distomesial scale; ocular plate lacking styliform projection. Antennule with foliaceous prosartema, flagella of about same length, borne on apex of third segment. Exopod present on second maxilliped (except in Artemesia, Macropetasma, and Protrachypene) and third maxilliped (absent only in Macropetasma), and first four pereiopods. Third through fifth pleopods biramous. Pleurobranchia on somites IX through XII, and sometimes on XIII and XIV; rudimentary arthrobranchia usually present on somite VII, two arthrobranchiae on VIII through XII, and posterodorsal one on XIII (sometimes rudimentary anteroventral one also present on XIII); podobranchia on second maxilliped only. Epipods borne on first maxilliped and usually on second, lacking on fourth and fifth pereiopods. Petasma semi-open or semi-closed. Second pleopod of males bearing appendix masculina only, lacking appendix interna and distolateral projection. Thelycum open or closed. (After Pérez Farfante & Kensley 1997).


General References

Baldwin, J.D., Bass, A.L., Bowen, B.W. & Clark, W.H. 1998. Molecular phylogeny and biogeography of the marine shrimp Penaeus. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 10: 399-407

Dall, W. 1957. A revision of the Australian species of Penaeinae (Crustacea Decapoda: Penaeidae). Australian Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research 8(2): 136-230 figs 1-29

Dall, W. 1991. Zoogeography of the Penaeidae. Memoirs of the Queensland Museum 31: 39-50

Dall, W., Hill, B.J., Rothlisberg, P.C. & Staples, D.J. 1990. The biology of the Penaeidae. Advances in Marine Biology 27: 1-489

Grey, D.L., Dall, W. & Baker, A. 1983. A Guide to the Australian Penaeid Prawns. Darwin : Northern Territory Government Printing Office 140 pp. 51 colour pls.

Gusmão, J., Lazoski, C. & Sole-Cava, A.M. 2000. A new species of Penaeus (Crustacea: Penaeidae) revealed by allozyme and cytochrome oxidase I analyses. Marine Biology, Berlin 137(3): 435-446

Maggioni, R., Rogers, A.D., Maclean, N. & D'Incao, F. 2001. Molecular phylogeny of Western Atlantic Farfantepenaeus and Litopenaeus shrimp based on mitochondrial 16S partial sequences. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 18(1): 66-73

Pérez Farfante, I. & Kensley, B. 1997. Penaeoid and sergestoid shrimps and prawns of the world. Keys and diagnoses for the families and genera. Mémoires du Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle, Paris [1936-1950] 175: 1-233

Racek, A.A. & Dall, W. 1965. Littoral Penaeinae (Crustacea Decapoda) from northern Australia, New Guinea and adjacent waters. Verhandelingen der Koninklijke Akademie van Wetenschappen [Verh. Akad. Amsterdam] 56(3): 1-119 figs 1-16 pls 1-13


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
15-Sep-2023 PENAEIDAE Rafinesque-Schmaltz, 1815 15-Sep-2023 MODIFIED
10-May-2022 DECAPODA Latreille, 1802 24-Jul-2023 MODIFIED
05-Aug-2020 DECAPODA Latreille, 1802 15-Sep-2023 MODIFIED
05-Dec-2019 DECAPODA Latreille, 1802 15-Sep-2023 MODIFIED Dr Shane Ahyong
22-Dec-2016 DECAPODA Latreille, 1803 15-Sep-2023 MODIFIED Dr Shane Ahyong
24-Apr-2012 15-Sep-2023 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)