Cannibal Shrimp: Numbers Continue to Grow

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Cannibal shrimp doesn't sound like a dish I'd want to see served to me on a plate at a seafood restaurant. I don't care how ridiculously tasty the freaky little creature might be -- put the word "cannibal" in front of any kind of food and, chances are, I'm not going to put said item into my mouth. It's just not going to happen.

In certain circles, this 13-inch monstrosity is called an tiger shrimp, which are native to areas around Asia and Australia. Researchers have labeled the beast a "cannibal shrimp" because it eats its smaller, leaner brethren, which, in a way, is downright frightening. Aquatic life cannibalizing its own kind sounds too much like a horror movie, which probably means I spend too much time stupid movies in my spare time.

According to reports, the number of tiger shrimp found in the waters off the east and gulf coasts are still on the rise. In fact, the number is at least 10 times higher than 2011 than they were in 2010. Determining the actual size of the population is a bit more difficult.

"They are probably even more prevalent than reports suggest, because the more fisherman and other locals become accustomed to seeing them, the less likely they are to report them," USGS biologic Pam Fuller claims.

Scientists, however, are unclear as to how many of these shrimp are currently cruising coastal waters. Female tiger shrimp are known to lay anywhere from 50,000 to a million eggs at a time. What's even more interesting is that they hatch in around 24 hours. In other words, determining just how many cannibal shrimp are hanging around North American shores is an extremely difficult task to accomplish. Researchers hope to learn more about the species as more specimens are gathered, collected, and studied.

There is a silver lining: Tiger shrimp can be consumed by human beings. "They're supposed to be very good," Fuller adds. "They can get very large, sorta like lobsters."

No, thanks. I think I'll have the kiddie chicken fingers, instead.

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