Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1986
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record:
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1986

General Invasion History:

Penaeus vannamei is native to the tropical East Pacific from the Gulf of California, Mexico to northern Peru (Holthuis 1989). It is now the most widely cultured shrimp in the world (Liao and Chien 2011). It is currently raised in at least 27 countries, with major production operations occurring in the US, Mexico, Central America, tropical South America, China, India, and southeast Asia. Artificial spawning was first achieved in Florida in 1976, and by the 1980s, this shrimp was adopted for culture in the mainland US, Hawaii, and Central and South America (Food and Agriculture Organization 2011). Escapes are widely reported in East and Gulf coast US waters (Wenner and Knott 1992), South America, Hawaii (Carlton and Eldredge 2009), and Thailand (Senanan et al. 2007), but so far, established, wild populations have been reported only from Venezuela (Perez et al. 2007). In some countries, including the US, increased regulations and improving farming practices may be reducing the frequency of escapes (Wenner and Knot 1992; Food and Agriculture Organization 2011).

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the East Coast:

Shrimp culture operations in South Carolina began in 1981, using various species, including the East Pacific P. stylirostris (Pacific Blue Shrimp), Penaeus monodon (Asian Tiger Shrimp), and the native P. setiferus (Atlantic White Shrimp). In 1985, they began rearing P. vannamei. The first escaped specimen was reported in 1986, in the North Edisto River (Wenner and Knott 1992). By 1990, fishermen were reporting frequent occurrences of escaped P. vannamei in their catches. A survey of commercial shrimp catches, conducted to determine the range and abundance of P. vannamei, found that the non-native species formed 1-7% of small shrimp, and 1-2% of adult shrimp, caught in 1990 in Rockville, South Carolina, on the North Edisto River. The total number of P. vannamei caught in the 24 catches examined was between 900 and 2300. In 1991, catches were surveyed from May to November over a broader section of the South Carolina coast, from Georgetown to Port Royal Sound, but P. vannamei was found only in commercial catches from a small coastal area between Stono Inlet and South Edisto River. However, commercial and research fishing has found this shrimp as far north as Bulls Bay, north of Charleston. A smaller number of the non-native shrimp were caught in 1991, despite the much greater temporal and spatial span of the second survey. Differences in the two surveys make comparisons difficult, especially since in 1990, new regulations were imposed in order to reduce escape. However, it appears that the new regulations, which required screening and inspections, had reduced escapes. A few male shrimp in the surveys showed signs of maturity, but there was no evidence of reproduction (Wenner and Knott 1992). We are not aware of any more recent occurrences of P. vannamei on the East Coast.

Invasion History on the Gulf Coast:

Penaeus vannamei was widely raised in Texas by the late 1980s. From 1988 to 1998, several shrimp of this species were caught off Brownsville, in the Laguna Madre, and in Matagorda Bay (Balboa et al. 1991; USGS Nonindigenous Species Program 2011). However, there was no evidence of established populations.

Invasion History in Hawaii:

Penaeus vannamei was imported for aquaculture, together with other shrimp species, between 1978 and 1991. By 1991, P. vannamei was the only species cultured. Occasional escapes have occurred after flooding, but there is no evidence of established populations (Eldredge 1994; Carlton and Eldredge 2009). Currently, at least nine aquaculture operations in the state of Hawaii raise P. vannamei (Hawaii Department of Agriculture 2011

Invasion History Elsewhere in the World:

Since P. vannamei is widely reared, escapes are numerous, although improved practices and regulations may reduce these occurrences. In Anzoátegua State, Venezuela, where P. vannamei was imported in 1984, there are reportedly established populations (Pérez et al. 2007). Scattered specimens have been reported from equatorial Brazil, in the states of Rio Grande do Norte (in 2002, Santos and Coelho 2002), Maranhao (in 2009, Loebmann et al. 2010), and Piaui (in 2009, Loebmann et al. 2010). There are also reports from southern Brazil in Santa Caterina (in 2005, Pereira and Netto 2007) and Sao Paulo state (in 2005, Barbieri et al. 2006). The reproductive status of P. vannamei in these regions is unknown.

In Puerto Rico, P. vannamei was collected in 2006 from a canal connecting a commercial shrimp farm to the mouth of the La Plata River, on the north shore of the island. There was no evidence of reproduction (USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2011).

In Thailand, P. vannamei is extensively reared and frequently caught in estuarine waters of the Bang Pakong River. These shrimp appeared to be mostly juvenile, based on size comparisons with captive populations, but their average size increased during the course of a year of sampling in 2004. The reproductive status of this shrimp in Thailand is uncertain (Senanan et al. 2007).


Penaeus vannamei is a penaeid shrimp. Family characteristics include movable chelae (claws) on the first three pairs of walking legs and a third thoracic segment which never overlaps with the second (Williams 1984). The rostrum is moderately long with 7-10 dorsal and 2-4 (occasionally 5-8) ventral teeth. The tip of the rostrum in adults reaches the mid-length of the 2nd rostal segment. The lateral rostral groove ends near the posterior rostral tooth. The post-rostral keel is variable in length, and sometimes almost reaches the posterior edge of the carapace. The antennal spine and hepatic spines are pronounced, and located a short distance apart. The color is similar, but lighter than that of the Atlantic White Shrimp (P. setiferus). Its color is translucent, bluish or olive with dusky bands, reddish-brown on the antennules, but distinguished by white legs (Perez Farfante and Kensley 1997; Perry and Yeager 2006). The last abdominal segment has three lateral scar-like ridges. The maximum length is 220 mm (Food and Agriculture Organization 2011).

Synonyms- Since the publication of Perez Farfante and Kensley's (1997) 'Penaeoid and sergestoid shrimps and prawns of the world', this shrimp has been known as Litopenaeus vannamei. That work split the former genus Penaeus into 6 genera. A recent study (Ma et al. 2011) found that the morphological features used to split the genus were not consistent with genetic data. They concluded that the genus Penaeus should be re-unified.


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Arthropoda
Subphylum:   Crustacea
Class:   Malacostraca
Subclass:   Eumalacostraca
Superorder:   Eucarida
Order:   Decapoda
Suborder:   Dendrobranchiata
Superfamily:   Penaeoidea
Family:   Penaeidae
Genus:   Penaeus
Species:   vannamei


Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Penaeus setiferus
Northern White Shrimp (Western Atlantic native). The rostrum has 5-11 (usually 9) dorsal teeth and 2 ventral teeth. The rostum, in adults, extends bewond the second segment of the antennule.

Penaeus stylirostris
Pacific Blue Shrimp (Northeast Pacific native, an aquaculture species)



Adult Penaeus vannamei spawn in the ocean, releasing their eggs into the water. The eggs hatch into a non-feeding nauplius larva, which lasts about two days, before molting into a zoea stage (4-5 days), a mysis stage (3-4 days) and a postlarva (10-15 days) (Barnes 1983; Food and Agricultural Organization 2011 – stage durations are given for unspecified aquaculture conditions). Postlarvae and juveniles tend to migrate into estuaries, while adults return to the sea for spawning (Food and Agricultural Organization 2011).

Trophic Status:




General HabitatGrass BedNone
General HabitatUnstructured BottomNone
General HabitatMangrovesNone
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Salinity RangeEuhaline30-40 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone
Vertical HabitatNektonicNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Minimum Temperature (ºC)12Experimental, Kumlu et al. 2010
Maximum Temperature (ºC)34.5Experimental, Kumlu et al. 2010
Minimum Salinity (‰)1Davis et al. 2002, experimental, 15-20 day old post-larvae
Maximum Salinity (‰)40Experimental (Rodriguez 1981, cited by Wenner and Knott 1992)
Minimum Reproductive Salinity22in aquaculture, Liao and Chen 2011
Minimum Duration17Nauplius through post larva, unspecified aquaculture conditions (Food and Agricultural Organization 2011)
Maximum Duration24Nauplius through post larva, unspecified aquaculture conditions (Food and Agricultural Organization 2011)
Maximum Length (mm)230Food and Agricultural Organization 2011
Broad Temperature RangeNoneSubtropical-Tropical
Broad Salinity RangeNoneOligohaline-Euhaline

General Impacts

Penaeus vannamei is economically important as the primary species now reared in shrimp aquaculture. Impacts of shrimp aquaculture are controversial, and include loss of mangroves and other coastal habitat, salinization of groundwater, escape of nonindigenous shrimp species, and spread of viral shrimp diseases (Senanan et al. 2007; Food and Agriculture Organization 2011). In the United States, research has focused on 'super-intensive' aquaculture in closed, indoor systems, which would minimize escapes or disease problems. Specific impacts of P. vannamei have not been reported. Potential impacts are competition with native shrimp species, and spread of viral shrimp diseases to wild shrimp populations, specifically the White Spot Syndrome Virus and the Taura Syndrome Virus (Balboa et al. 1991; Food and Agriculture Organization 2011). An experimental study indicates that Penaeus vannamei was more aggressive in competition for food with native shrimps in Thailand (P. monodon, P. merguiensis, Metapenaeus tenuipes, M. ensis, M. brevicornis), but lost staged competitions with a native crab Charybdis affinis (Chavanich et al. 2016).

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
NEP-VII None 0 Native Estab
NEP-VIII None 0 Native Estab
NEP-IX None 0 Native Estab
SEP-H None 1931 Native Estab
SEP-I None 0 Native Estab
CAR-VII Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida 1986 Def Unk
CAR-I Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida 1988 Def Unk
CAR-IV None 2008 Def Unk
EAS-I None 2005 Def Unk
G320 Upper Laguna Madre 1988 Def Unk
G330 Lower Laguna Madre 1988 Def Unk
S090 Stono/North Edisto Rivers 1986 Def Unk
CAR-III None 1984 Def Estab
SA-IV None 2002 Def Unk
SP-XXI None 1994 Def Failed
SA-II None 2005 Def Unk
SEP-C None 0 Native Estab
S076 _CDA_S076 (South Carolina Coastal) 1990 Def Unk
CIO-IV None 2003 Def Unk
SA-III None 2004 Def Unk
PAN_PAC Panama Pacific Coast 1931 Native Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


Balboa, William A.; King, Timothy L.; Hammerschmidt, Paul C. (1991) Occurrence of Pacific White Shrimp in lower Laguna Madre, Texas, Proceedings of the Southeastern Association of Game and Fish Commissions 45: 288-292

Barbieri, Edison; Schmidt Melo, Gustavo Augusto (2006) Biodiversity: Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931) exotic species presence in Cananéia-Iguape-Ilha Comprida lagoon estuary complex, O Mundo Da Saude São Paulo 30(4): 654-659

Barnes, Robert D. (1983) Invertebrate Zoology, Saunders, Philadelphia. Pp. 883

Carlton, James T.; Eldredge, Lucius (2009) Marine bioinvasions of Hawaii: The introduced and cryptogenic marine and estuarine animals and plants of the Hawaiian archipelago., Bishop Museum Bulletin in Cultural and Environmental Studies 4: 1-202

Chavanich, Suchana; Viyakarn, Voranop; Senanan, Wansuk; Panutrakul, Suwanna (2016) Laboratory assessment of feeding-behavior interactions between the introduced Pacific white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931) (Penaeidae) and five native shrimps plus a crab species in Thailand, Aquatic Invasions In press: <missing location>

da Silva, Eder Carvalho; Barros, Francisco (2011) [Benthic macrofauna introduced in Brazil: List of marine and freshwater species and actual distribution], Oecologia Australis 15(2): 326-344

Davis, D. Allen; Saoud. Imad P.; McGraw, William J.; Rpose, David P. (2002) Avances en nutricion aquicola: VI International Symposium on Aquaculture Nutrition, <missing publisher>, Cancun, Mexico. Pp. 73-90

Eldredge, L.G. (1994) Perspectives in aquatic exotic species management in the Pacific Islands Vol. I. Introductions of commercially significant aquatic organisms to the Pacific islands, South Pacific Commission. Inshore Fisheries Research Project, Technical Document 7: 1-127

Food and Agricultural Organization 2011 Cultured Aquatic Species Information Programme: <i>Penaeus vannamei</i>. <missing URL>

Holthuis, L. B. (1980) FAO Species Catalogue: Vol. 1. Shrimps and Prawns of the World., Food and Agricultural Organization, Rome. Pp. <missing location>

Kumlu, Metin; Turkmen, Serhat; Kumlu, Mehmet (2010) Thermal tolerance of Litopenaeus vannamei (Crustacea, Penaidae) acclimated to four temrperature, Journal of Thermal Biology 35: 305-308

Liao, I. Chiu; Chien, Yew-Hu (2011) The Pacific White Shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei, in Asia: The world's most widely cultured alien crustacean, In: Galil, Bella S.; Clark, Paul F.; Carlton, James T.(Eds.) In the wrong place- Alien marine crustaceans: Distribution, biology, impacts. , Dordrecht, Netherlands. Pp. 489-519

Loebmann, Daniel; Mai, Ana Cecília G.; Lee, James T. (2010) The invasion of five alien species in the Delta do Parnaíba Environmental Protection Area, Northeastern Brazil, Revista de Biologia Tropical 58(3): 909-923

Lopes, Rubens M. (Ed.) (2009) <missing title>, Ministry of the Environment, Brasilia, Brazil. Pp. 1-440

Ma, Ka Yan; Chan, Tin-Yam; Chu, Ka Hou (2011) Refuting the six-genus classification of Penaeus s.l. (Dendrobranchiata, Penaeidae): a combined analysis of mitochondrial and nuclear genes, Zoologica Scripta 50: 498-508

Misamore, Michael; Browdy, Craig L. (1997) Evaluating hybridization potential between Penaeus setiferus and Penaeus vannamei through natural mating, artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, Aquaculture 150: l-10

Modesto, et al. and 6 authors (2023) What we know and do not know about the invasive Asian clam Corbicula fluminea, Hydrabiologia <missing volume>: Pub;ished online

Okolodkov, Yuri B. and 7 authors (2007) Especies acuáticas no indígenas en México., Ciencia y Mar 11(32): 29-67

Paulay, Gustav; Kirkendale, Lisa; Lambert, Gretchen; Meyer, Chris (2002) Anthropogenic biotic interchange in a coral reef ecosystem: a case study from Guam, Pacific Science 56(2): 403-422

Pereira, Tiago José; Netto, Sérgio A. (2007) Ocorrência do camarão exótico Litopenaeus vannamei Boone, 1931 (Crustacea, Decapoda, Penaeidae) no sistema estuarino de laguna, SC, Biociencias 15(1): 157-159

Perez Farfante, Isabel; Kensley, Bruce (1997) <missing title>, Museum National D'Historie Naturelle, Paris. Pp. 233

Pérez, Julio E.; Alfonsi, Carmen; Salazar, Sinatra K.; Macsotay, Oliver Barrios, Jorge; Escarbassiere, Rafael Martinez (2007) Especies marinas exóticas y criptogénicas en las costas de Venezuela., Boletino del Instituto Oceanographico de Venezuela 46(1): 79-96

Perry, Harriet; Yeager, David (2006) <missing title>, Gulf Coast Research Laboratory- University of Southern Mississiuppi, Ocean Springs MS. Pp. 8

Santos, Maria do Carmo Ferrão; Coelho, Petrônio Alves (2002) Espécies exóticas de camarões peneídeos (Penaeus monodon Fabricius, 1798 e Litopenaeus vannamei Boone, 1931) nos ambientes estuarino e marinho do nordeste do Brasil., Boletim Tecnica Cientifico de CEPENE, Tamaradare 10(1): 209-222

Senanan, Wansuk and 6 authors (2007) The presence of the Pacific Whiteleg Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei, Boone, 1931) in the wild in Thailand., Journal of Shellfish Research 26(4): 1187-1192

Tavares, Marco (2011) In the wrong place- Alien marine crustaceans: Distribution, biology, impacts, Springer, Dordrecht, Netherlands. Pp. 251-268

USGS Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program 2003-2024 Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database.

Wakida-Kusunoki, Armando T.;Amador-del Angel, Luis Enrique; Alejandro, Patricia Carrillo; Brahms, Cecilia Quiroga (2011) Presence of Pacific white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931) in the Southern Gulf of Mexico, Aquatic Invasions 6(Supplement 1): S139-S142

Wenner, Elizabeth L., Knott, David M. (1992) Introductions & transfers of marine species: achieving a balance between economic development and resource protection, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium, Charleston. Pp. 173-181

Wicksten, Mary K.; Hendrickx, Michel E. (2003) An updated checklist of benthic marine and brackish water shrimps (Decapoda: Penaeoidea, Stenopodidea, Caridea) from the Eastern Tropical Pacific, Contributions to the Study of East Pacific Crustaceans 2: 49-76

Williams, Austin B. (1984) Shrimps, Lobsters, and Crabs of the Atlantic Coast of the Eastern United States, Maine to Florida, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC. Pp. <missing location>