Invasion History

First Non-native North American Tidal Record: 1928
First Non-native West Coast Tidal Record:
First Non-native East/Gulf Coast Tidal Record: 1928

General Invasion History:

Macrobrachium olfersii is a catadromous shrimp, spawning in estuarine waters and then migrating up river (up to 100 km or more) as juveniles. This shrimp was first described from Brazil, where it is found as far south as Santa Catarina (Williams 1984; Ferreira et al. 2010). Its northern limit was believed to be Veracruz, Mexico (Rathbun 1910, cited by Schmitt 1933), but it has since been collected in the Mexican states of San Luis Potosi and Tamaulipas (in 1961). Macrobrachium olfersii has been collected in Atlantic waters of the Panama Canal (Hildebrand 1939; Abele and Kim 1989) and Wicksten and Hendrickx (2003) suggest that this and other Amphi-Panamic shrimp species may represent pairs of sibling species isolated by the rise of the isthmus. This shrimp is also reportedly widespread in Pacific drainages of Mexico from Baja California south to Chiapas (Wicksten and Hendrickx 2003; Hernandez et al. 2007). It has been collected in mountain streams (Bowles et al. 2000), so it may have colonized Pacific watersheds by stream capture or other natural processes.

Macrobrachium olfersii has had a puzzling pattern of appearances on the US East and Gulf coasts, suggestive of introduction, and has now been collected from Texas to North Carolina (Williams 1984; Cooper 2011). Some authors have suggested that this species may be an overlooked native (Anderson and Fillingame 1980), but the large, bristly, asymmetrical claws are distinctive (Williams 1984). Early collections in Florida were from ornamental pools at a hotel (in St. Augustine in 1928; Schmitt 1933) and near tourist attractions (in Silver Glen Springs and St. Johns River, Holthuis 1952, cited by Holthuis and Provenzano 1970; in Parrot Jungle, Miami, Holthuis and Provenzano 1970), where ornamental aquatic plants and fishes are likely to be stocked. In the 1970s, it was collected in Texas (in 1973, Horne and Beisser 1977), Louisiana (in 1974, White 1977), Mississippi (in 1978, Anderson and Fillingame 1980), Pensacola Bay, Florida (in 1973, Bowles et al. 2000), the Indian River Lagoon, Florida (in 1972, Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute collections), and Cape Fear River, North Carolina (1975, Williams 1984). Possible vectors for its spread include accidental transport with ornamental plants and fishes, the release of Macrobrachium shrimps kept as aquarium pets (a Web search indicates that some hobbyists keep M. olfersii and other species), transport with ballast water, and natural dispersal.

North American Invasion History:

Invasion History on the East Coast:

In 1928, Macrobrachium olfersii was caught in a pool outside the Alcazar Hotel, in St. Augustine, Florida. Schmitt (1933) suggested that the shrimps may have been introduced with ornamental fishes and plants from Central America, although the pond also had a drain to the adjacent sea, through which another shrimp, M. acanthurus, may have entered. Subsequently, additional M. olfersii were found in Florida, in the Biscayne Bay (in 1961 from Snapper Creek at Parrot Jungle Miami) and St. Johns River drainages (before 1952 from Silver Glen Springs, Lake George; Holthuis and Provenzano 1970), and drainage canals near Lake Worth (Boca Raton) (in 1970, Dugger and Dobkin 1975). Many specimens were caught in the Indian River Lagoon in the 1970s (Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institution collections), and two juveniles were caught at a power plant on the Cape Fear River, North Carolina (in 1975, Williams 1984; USNM 184036, US National Museum of Natural History 2008). In 1988 and 1989, several specimens were caught in rivers near Charleston Harbor, South Carolina (David Knott, personal communication).

Invasion History on the Gulf Coast:

As noted, Macrobrachium olfersii is considered native at least as far north as Veracruz, Mexico, and has been collected in the states of San Luis Potosi and Tamaulipas (in 1961, Bowles et al. 2000). It was found in the Rio Grande and Guadelupe Rivers, Texas, in 1973-1974 (Horne and Beisser 1977), in Little Pecan Bayou, Louisiana in 1974 (White 1977), Pascagoula River, Mississippi in 1978 (Anderson and Fillingame 1980), and the Escambia River (Pensacola Bay drainage), Florida in 1972 (Bowles et al. 2000). It was found up to 100 km from the Gulf at Anzalduas Dam on the Rio Grande, Texas (Bowles et al. 2000), while other catches were in brackish water (at 2.3 PSU, in Little Pecan Bayou, Louisiana in 1974; White 1977).


Macrobrachium olfersii, the Bristled River Shrimp, is a caridean shrimp whose infraorder characteristics include chelae (movable claws) on the first two pairs of walking legs, and a third thoracic segment overlapping the second. Shrimps of the genus Macrobrachium (meaning 'large arms') have the second pair of walking legs greatly lengthened, often equaling or exceeding body length, with very prominent chelae (Williams 1984). In M. olfersi, the legs are very unequal, with the larger of the two legs, roughly equaling the body length and ending with a propodus ('hand') forming a very large claw. The merus, carpus, and propodus of both second legs are covered densely with rows of bristles. The rostrum is straight or bent slightly downward, with 12-15 dorsal teeth. The male is dark brown, sometimes with an overlay of grayish or yellowish brown, or light muddy brown. The larger claw is bluish to blackish brown. The walking legs are more or less transparent. Females are more russet, with the larger claw faint pea-green, mottled with light blue on the inner surface. The walking legs are 'almost white'. The body of the male reaches 90 mm, and ovigerous females range in size from 30 to 65 mm (Williams 1984). The zoea stages of this shrimp are illustrated by Dugger and Dobkin (1975).


Taxonomic Tree

Kingdom:   Animalia
Phylum:   Arthropoda
Subphylum:   Crustacea
Class:   Malacostraca
Subclass:   Eumalacostraca
Superorder:   Eucarida
Order:   Decapoda
Suborder:   Pleocyemata
Infraorder:   Caridea
Family:   Palaemonidae
SubFamily:   Palaemoninae
Genus:   Macrobrachium
Species:   olfersii


Bithynis olfersii (Wiegmann, 1836)
Palaemon olfersii (Wiegmann, 1836)
Palaemon potiporanga (Müller, 1880)
Palaemon spinimanus (H. Milne-Edwards, 1837)

Potentially Misidentified Species

Macrobrachium acanthurus
Widespread but rare in Southeast US coastal estuarine and fresh waters, NC-TX (Bowles et al. 2000)

Macrobrachium carcinus
Widespread but rare in Southeast US coastal estuarine and fresh waters, FL, MS, TX (Bowles et al. 2000)

Macrobrachium faustinum
In US, collected only in Florida (Bowles et al. 2000)

Macrobrachium heterochirus
In US, collected only in Florida (Bowles et al. 2000)

Macrobrachium macrobrachion
Introduced, African, 1 collection known from Indian River Lagoon, Florida

Macrobrachium ohione
Native, Virginia-Texas, formerly ranged far up Mississippi (Bowles et al. 2000)

Macrobrachium rosenbergii
Introduced, Indo-Pacific, aquaculture escape, in Simmons Bayou, Mississippi



Life History- In caridean shrimps, the copulating pair is usually oriented at right angles to each other, with the genital regions opposing each other. The modified first and second pairs of pleopods are used to transfer a spermatophore to a receptacle between the thoracic legs of the female (Barnes 1983). After mating, female shrimp carry broods of fertilized eggs on their abdomen. These hatch into planktonic larvae called zoeae which have feathery appendages, with dense setae. Zoeae of shrimps lack the prominent spines seen in brachyuran crabs, and look shrimplike (Johnson and Allen 2005). Larvae go through several zoeal stages and molts before metamorphosing into postlarvae. The first postlarval stage is a well-formed juvenile shrimp, with well-developed walking legs and pleopods (swimmerets) (Johnson and Allen 2005). Dugger and Dobkin (1975) reared larvae of Macrobrachium olfersii through 12 zoeal stages, but these larvae failed to metamorphose over 27 days, so development may have been abnormal. Survival of larvae was much better at 21 PSU (27 days) compared to 35 PSU (7 days) (Dugger and Dobkin 1975).

Ecology- Adult Macrobrachium olfersii can ascend up rivers more than 100 km from the sea, but presumably return to estuaries to spawn. Spawning and early larval development apparently occur in polyhaline waters (Dugger and Dobkin 1975).



Trophic Status:




General HabitatGrass BedNone
General HabitatFresh (nontidal) MarshNone
General HabitatSalt-brackish marshNone
General HabitatCanalsNone
General HabitatMangrovesNone
General HabitatUnstructured BottomNone
General HabitatNontidal FreshwaterNone
General HabitatSwampNone
General HabitatCoarse Woody DebrisNone
General HabitatTidal Fresh MarshNone
Salinity RangeLimnetic0-0.5 PSU
Salinity RangeOligohaline0.5-5 PSU
Salinity RangeMesohaline5-18 PSU
Salinity RangePolyhaline18-30 PSU
Tidal RangeSubtidalNone
Vertical HabitatEpibenthicNone
Vertical HabitatNektonicNone

Tolerances and Life History Parameters

Maximum Temperature (ºC)34.8Field, Baja California (Hernandez et al. 2007)
Minimum Salinity (‰)0Catadromous, spawning and larval development in estuaries, upstream migration of juveniles far up nontidal rivers.
Maximum Salinity (‰)30Highest tested (Dugger and Dobkin 1975)
Maximum Reproductive Salinity30Field occurrence, postlarvae, Venezuela (Gamba and Rodriguez 1987). Survival of larvae in the laboratory was much better (up to 27 days) at 21 ppt compared to 35 ppt (7 days) (Dugger and Dobkin 1975).
Minimum Duration27Larvae grew in the laboratory through 12 zoeal molts but did not metamorphose (Dugger and Dobkin 1975).
Maximum Length (mm)90Adult male 90mm, adult female 60 mm (Williams 1984)
Broad Temperature RangeNoneWarm temperate-Tropical
Broad Salinity RangeNoneNontidal Limnetic-Euhaline

General Impacts

No economic or ecological impacts have been reported for Macrobrachium olfersii in US waters.

Regional Distribution Map

Bioregion Region Name Year Invasion Status Population Status
SA-II None 0 Native Estab
SA-III None 0 Native Estab
CAR-III None 0 Native Estab
CAR-I Northern Yucatan, Gulf of Mexico, Florida Straits, to Middle Eastern Florida 1961 Def Estab
CAR-VII Cape Hatteras to Mid-East Florida 1928 Def Estab
SA-IV None 0 Native Estab
S190 Indian River 1972 Def Estab
G130 Pensacola Bay 1973 Def Estab
NEP-VI Pt. Conception to Southern Baja California 0 Crypto Estab
NEP-VII None 2007 Crypto Estab
NEP-VIII None 1967 Crypto Estab
NEP-IX None 0 Crypto Estab
G160 East Mississippi Sound 1996 Def Estab
G230 Mermentau River 1974 Def Estab
G300 Aransas Bay 1974 Def Estab
G330 Lower Laguna Madre 1973 Def Estab
S050 Cape Fear River 1975 Def Unk
S180 St. Johns River 1970 Def Estab
S183 _CDA_S183 (Daytona-St. Augustine) 1928 Def Estab
S196 _CDA_S196 (Cape Canaveral) 1970 Def Estab
S200 Biscayne Bay 1961 Def Estab
S080 Charleston Harbor 1988 Def Estab
CAR-II None 0 Native Estab
CAR-VI None 0 Native Estab
S045 _CDA_S045 (New) 2003 Def Unk
PAN_CAR Panama Caribbean Coast 0 Native Estab

Occurrence Map

OCC_ID Author Year Date Locality Status Latitude Longitude


Leclerc, Jean-Charles; Viard, Fredérique (2017) Habitat formation prevails over predation in influencing fouling communities, Ecology and Evolution 7: 477-492

Abele, Lawrence G.; Kim, Won (1989) The decapod crustaceans of the Panama Canal, Smithsonian Contributions to Zoology 482: 1-50

Anderson, Gary; Fillingame, James Andrew (1980) The occurrence of Macrobrachium olfersii (Wiegmann, 1836) and Macrobrachium carcinus (Linnaeus, 1758) in southern Mississippi, U.S.A. (Decapoda, Palaemonidae), Crustaceana 39(1): 90-94

Bowles, David E., Aziz, Karim, Knight, Charles L. (2000) Macrobrachium (Decapoda: Caridea: Palaemonidae) in the contiguous United States: A review of the species and an assessment of threats to their survival, Journal of Crustacean Biology 20(1): 158-171

Cooper, John E. (2011) Giant river shrimps of the genus Macrobrachium (Decapoda: Palaemonidae) in North and South Carolina, Journal of the North Carolina Academy of Science 127(2): 176-178

Dugger, Durwood M., Dobkin, Sheldon (1975) A contribution to knowledge of the larval development of Macrobrachium olfersii (Wiegmann, 1836) (Decapoda, Palaemonidae), Crustaceana 29(1): 1-30

Ferreira, Rodrigo Simões; Vieira, Rony Roberto Ramos; D’Incao, Fernando (2010) The marine and estuarine shrimps of the Palaemoninae (Crustacea: Decapoda: Caridea) from Brazil, Zootaxa 2606: 1-24

Gamba, Alejandra L., Rodríguez, Gilberto (1987) Migratory behavior of postlarval white, Penaeus schmitti, and river shrimps, Macrobrachium olfersi and Macrobrachium acanthurus, in their zone of overlap in a tropical lagoon, Bulletin of Marine Science 40(3): 454-463

Hernandez, Luis; Murugan, Gopal; Ruiz-Campos, Gorgonio; Maeda-Martinez, Alejandro M. (2007) Freshwater shrimp of the genus Macrobrachium (Decapoda: Palaemonidae) from the Baja California peninsula, Mexico., Journal of Crustacean Biology 27(2): 351-369

Hildebrand, Samuel F. (1939) The Panama Canal as a passageway for fishes, with lists and remarks on the fishes and invertebrates observed, Zoologica (New york Zoological Society) 24: 15-45

Holthuis, L.B., Provenzano, A.J., Jr. (1970) New distribution records for species of Macrobrachium with notes on the distribution of the genus in Florida (Decapoda, Palamonidae)., Crustaceana 19(2): 211-213

Horne, Francis, Beisser, Steve (1977) Distribution of river shrimp in the Guadeloupe and San Marcos Rivers of Central Texas, USA (Decapoda, Caridea), Crustaceana 33(1): 56-60

Montalvo-Urgel, Hugo; Sánchez, Alberto J.; Florido, Rosa; Macossay-Cortez, Alberto A. (2010) [List of crustaceans distributed in submerged woody debris in the tropical wetlands of Pantanos de Centla, southern Gulf of Mexico], Revista Mexicana de Biodiversidad 81: S121- S131

Rossi, Natália; De Grave, Sammy; Mantelatto, Fernando L. 1 , SAMMY DE GRAVE 2 & FERNANDO L. MANTELATTO 1 (2016) A note on the correct spelling of the name of the freshwater shrimp Macrobrachium olfersii (Wiegmann, 1836) (Decapoda, Palaemonidae), Zootaxa 4114(5): 587-589

Schmitt, Waldo L. (1933) Notes on shrimps of the genus Macrobrachium found in the United States, Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 23(6): 312-317

U.S. National Museum of Natural History 2002-2021 Invertebrate Zoology Collections Database.

White, Charles J. (1977) Extension of the known range of Macrobrachium olfersii (Wiegmann, 1836) in coastal Louisiana (Decapoda, Caridea), Crustaceana 33(2): 221-222

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>