information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Common prawn (Palaemon serratus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.
Only coastal and marine records shown



Palaemon serratus is a typical prawn with a cylindrical body composed of a carapace at the front and six abdominal segments. It has a large upturned rostrum in front of the eyes with distinctive dorsal and ventral teeth. Just below the large compound eye on each side is the antennule, which is divided into three parts. Below the antennule is the antenna, which is divided into two parts; the short flat segment (scaphocerite) and the long whip-like flagellum. Palaemon serratus is translucent with red/brown lines on the carapace and abdomen. The first two pairs of walking legs bear claws (chela) and have yellow and red banding.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Probably present all around Britain and Ireland. See additional information below.

Global distribution

From Danish coast south to Mediterranean, Black Sea and Mauritania.


Present usually in groups, in crevices and under stones from intertidal pools to the shallow subtidal. Also found in estuaries and seagrass beds. Found from the intertidal to depths of 40 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Large round-bodied prawn up to 11 cm in length.
  • Translucent with variable markings but generally red/brown horizontal or oblique lines on the carapace and vertical on the abdomen.
  • First two walking legs (pereiopods) chelate with yellow and brown banding.
  • Head region covered by a carapace with a well developed rostrum with distinct upward curve.
  • Rostrum with 6-7 dorsal teeth, 2 of which are behind the eyesocket, and 4-5 ventral teeth.
  • Mandible with palp of 3 segments (requires microscopic examination).

Additional information

Palaemon serratus could be mistaken for the similar species Palaemon elegans, Palaemon longirostris and Palaemon adspersus but can be separated by the shape of the rostrum and the number of dorsal and ventral rostral teeth.

British Isles Distribution
Recorded from Shetland and Orkney. Scarcely recorded on the northeast coast of Britain. Frequent on the west, south and south west coast of England and Wales and west coast of Scotland. Recorded from the west, south west, south and southeast coast of Ireland.

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Bruce, J.R., Colman, J.S. & Jones, N.S., 1963. Marine fauna of the Isle of Man. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

  2. Crothers, J.H. (ed.), 1966. Dale Fort Marine Fauna. London: Field Studies Council.

  3. Foster-Smith, J. (ed.), 2000. The marine fauna and flora of the Cullercoats District. Marine species records for the North East Coast of England. Sunderland: Penshaw Press, for the Dove Marine Laboratory, University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

  4. Gibson, R., Hextall, B. & Rogers, A., 2001. Photographic guide to the sea and seashore life of Britain and north-west Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  5. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  6. JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee), 1999. Marine Environment Resource Mapping And Information Database (MERMAID): Marine Nature Conservation Review Survey Database. [on-line]

  7. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  8. Naylor, P., 2000. Marine Animals of the South West. Plymouth: Sound Diving Publications

  9. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.

  10. Smaldon, G., Holthuis, L.B. & Fransen, C.H.J.M., 1993. Coastal Shrimps and Prawns (Revised edn). Shrewsbury: Field Studies Council.


This review can be cited as:

Neal, K.J. 2008. Palaemon serratus Common prawn. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 19-09-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 08/05/2008