Penaeus plebejus Click to enlarge image
Eastern King Prawn, Penaeus plebejus Image: Dr Isobel Bennett
© Australian Museum

Fast Facts

  • Classification
    Species
    plebejus
    Genus
    Penaeus
    Family
    Penaeidae
    Suborder
    Dendrobranchiata
    Order
    Decapoda
    Superorder
    Eucarida
    Class
    Malacostraca
    Subphylum
    Crustacea
    Phylum
    Arthopoda
    Kingdom
    Animalia
  • Size Range
    30 cm

Introduction

The Eastern King Prawn is the most important commercial prawn species in New South Wales. All the big edible prawns in Australia are known as penaeid prawns and belong to the family Penaeidae.

Identification

The Eastern King Prawn is almost transparent with a blue tail tinged with red around the edges and a long rostrum or spike between the eyes. This rostrum or spike may help protect the prawn from predators, or at least cause some discomfort to those animals that eat them. In Australia we refer to these animals as prawns but in some other parts of the world they are called shrimps.

Habitat

The Eastern King Prawn lives in intertidal estuaries and oceans.

Distribution

The Eastern King Prawn is found in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania.

Life history cycle

Unlike crabs and lobsters, female prawns do not carry their eggs under their tail, but release them directly into the sea. The eggs hatch into a free-swimming larvae called nauplii and migrate from coastal waters into estuaries. Within the estuary, they moult a number of times and reach adult size after 9-12 months. As adults, they migrate back offshore to spawn and it is during these migrations that larger prawns are often caught. Once mature, adult prawns will not return to estuaries.

Economic impacts

Besides the Eastern King Prawn, other prawn species targeted by commercial fishers in Sydney include the Tiger Prawn (Penaeus esculentus), School Prawn (Metapenaeus macleayi) and the Greasy-back Prawn (M. bennettae).