The Nonindigenous Occurrences section of the NAS species profiles has a new structure. The section is now dynamically updated from the NAS database to ensure that it contains the most current and accurate information. Occurrences are summarized in Table 1, alphabetically by state, with years of earliest and most recent observations, and the tally and names of drainages where the species was observed. The table contains hyperlinks to collections tables of specimens based on the states, years, and drainages selected. References to specimens that were not obtained through sighting reports and personal communications are found through the hyperlink in the Table 1 caption or through the individual specimens linked in the collections tables.

Litopenaeus vannamei
Litopenaeus vannamei
(whiteleg shrimp)

Copyright Info
Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931)

Common name: whiteleg shrimp

Synonyms and Other Names: Penaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931); Pacific white shrimp, West Coast white shrimp, camaron blanco, langostino, whiteleg shrimp, crevette pattes blanches, camaron patiblanco

Taxonomy: available through www.itis.govITIS logo

Identification: Description taken from Perez Farfante and Kensley (1997). The rostrum moderately long, surpassing antennular peduncle in young, reaching about midlength of second antennular segment in adults.  Rostrum armed with dorsal and ventral teeth, ventral teeth usually 2-4 but occasionally 5-8.  Antennal and hepatic spines of carapace pronounced, orbital and pterygostomian spines absent.  Postocular sulcus absent, postrostral carina of variable length, sometimes almost reaching posterior margin of carapace. Longitudinal and transverse sutures absent.  Sixth abdominal somite with three cicatrices (longitudinally disposed ridges). Telson unarmed.  Mature males with symmetrical, semi-open petasma, not hooded; lacking distomedian projections; ventral costae short, not reaching distal margin and distinctly gaping.  Mature female with open thelycum and sternite XIV bearing ridges, prominences, depressions, or grooves.

Size: Grows to about 230 mm in length (Dore and Frimodt 1987).

Native Range: Found in the eastern Pacific from Sonora, Mexico to Tumbes in northern Peru (Perez Farfante and Kensley 1997).

Hydrologic Unit Codes (HUCs) Explained
Interactive maps: Point Distribution Maps

Nonindigenous Occurrences: Aquaculture of the Pacific white shrimp in the United States began with the studies of Parker et al. (1974) who reared the shrimp in a pond system in Texas and in Florida with the successful hatching and pond culture of L. vannamei in Crystal River in 1972.  In 1985, Litopenaeus vannamei postlarvae were imported from Panama to the Waddell Center in South Carolina to develop intensive culture techniques for this species in earthen ponds (Sandifer et al. 1988).  Escapes of cultured shrimp to the wild have occurred in both Texas (Balboa et al. 1991, Howells 2001, ) and South Carolina (Wenner and Knott 1992). 

Discussion of  the history of introductions is taken from Briggs et el. (2004).   Litopenaeus vannamei, native to the Western Pacific Coast of Latin America, was introduced to Tahiti in the early 1970s for research on their potential for aquaculture.  Subsequent development of intensive breeding and rearing techniques led to their transport to Hawaii, the north-west Pacific coast, the eastern Atlantic coast (South Carolina), Gulf of Mexico (Texas), Belize, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, and Brazil in the late 1970s and early1980s.  White shrimp were introduced into Asia for experimental purposes in 1978-79 and for commercial activities in the 1990s.  First introductions to Asian countries are as follows: Mainland China, 1988; Taiwan, 1995; Viet Nam, 2000; Indonesia, 2001; Thailand, 1998; Malaysia, 2001; India, 2001, Philippines, 1997; Pacific Islands, 1972.

Table 1. States with nonindigenous occurrences, the earliest and latest observations in each state, and the tally and names of HUCs with observations†. Names and dates are hyperlinked to their relevant specimen records. The list of references for all nonindigenous occurrences of Litopenaeus vannamei are found here.

StateFirst ObservedLast ObservedTotal HUCs with observations†HUCs with observations†
PR200620061Eastern Puerto Rico
SC198619912Carolinian; Edisto River
TX198919983East Matagorda Bay; Lower Rio Grande; South Laguna Madre

Table last updated 7/17/2024

† Populations may not be currently present.

Means of Introduction: Introductions to date are the result of accidental aquaculture releases. 

Status: Although collected periodically in commercial shrimp trawls, there is currently no evidence that populations have established themselves in the wild (Howells 2001, South Carolina Wildlife and Marine Resources Department).

Impact of Introduction:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...


Exotic shrimp viruses associated with L. vannamei may pose a risk to Gulf of Mexico and southeastern U.S. Atlantic penaeid shrimp fisheries.  Other crustacean fisheries may also be at risk from introduced viruses.  The Taura Syndrome Virus (TSV) is a virulent disease of L. vannamei in culture and has been documented in wild populations in the fisheries of Ecuador, El Salvador, and southern Mexico near the border with Guatemala (Lightner 1996).  The white spot virus (WSSV) has been confirmed in wild shrimp populations in the Gulf of Mexico and there is the possibility that TSV also exists (Jeff Lotz, personal communication).  A shrimp-farm outbreak of "IHHN" virus on the Pacific coast of Mexico may have been responsible for depression of wild shrimp populations (JSA 1997).

Remarks: Litopenaeus vannamei is the most commonly cultured shrimp in the western hemisphere (Rosenberry 2000).  Availability of postlarvae and tolerance of salinities ranging from 0.5 to 28.3 ppt. (Smith and Lawrence 1990) have allowed Pacific white shrimp culture to expand into inland states including, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan (Davis et al. 2002).  

References: (click for full references)

Balboa, W.A., T.L. King, and P.C. Hammerschmidt.  1991.  Occurrence of Pacific white shrimp in Lower Laguna Madre, Texas.  Proceedings of the Annual Conference Southeast Association Fish and Wildlife Agencies 45:288-292.

Briggs, M., S. Funge-Smith, R. Subasinghe, and M. Phillips.  2004.  Introductions and movement of Penaeus vannamei and Penaeus stylirostris in Asia and the Pacific.  Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific. RAP Publication 2004/10, pp 1-12.

Davis, D.A., I.P. Saoud, W.J. McGraw, and D.B. Rouse.  2002.  Considerations for Litopenaeus vannamei reared in inland low salinity waters.  In: L.E. Cruz-Suarez, D. Ricque-Marie, M. Tapia-Salazar, M.G. Gaxiola-Cortes, and N. Simoes (editors).  Advances en Nutricion Acuicola VI.  Memorias del VI Simposium Internacional de Nutricion Acuicola. 3 al 6 de Septiembre del 2002.  Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Dore, I. And C. Frimodt. 1987. An Illustrated Guide To Shrimp Of The World. Osprey Books, Huntington, NY, U.S.A. 229 Pp.

Howells, R. 2001.  Introduced non-native fishes and shellfishes in Texas waters: an updated list and discussion. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department,  Management Data Series 188.

JSA. (Joint Subcommittee On Aquaculture). 1997. An Evaluation Of Potential Virus Impacts On Cultured Shrimp And Wild Shrimp Populations In The Gulf Of Mexico And Southeastern U.S. Atlantic Coastal Waters. A Report To The Joint Subcommittee On Aquaculture. Prepared By The JSA Shrimp Virus Work Group. National Marine Fisheries Service, U.S. Department Of Commerce Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service, U.S. Department Of Agriculture, National Center For Environmental Assessment, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fish And Wildlife Service, U.S. Department Of Interior. 65 pp.

Lightner, D. V. 1996. The penaeid shrimp viruses IHHNV and TSV: epizootiology, production impacts and role of international trade in their distribution in the Americas. 'Revues Scientifique Et Technique Office Interantional Des Epizooties' 15(2): 579601.

Parker, J.C., F.S. Conte, W.S. MacGrath, and B.W. Miller.  1974.  An intensive culture system for penaeid shrimp.  Proceedings of the World Mariculture Society 5:65-79.

Perez Farfante, I. And B. Kensley. 1997. Penaeoid and Sergestoid Shrimps and Prawns of The World.  Keys and Diagnoses for the Families and Genera. Memories Du Museum National D'Historie Naturelle, Paris, France. 233 pp.

Rosenberry, B. 2000.  World Shrimp Farming. Number 12. Shrimp News International. San Diego, California.

Sandifer, P.A., J.S. Hopkins, and A.D. Stokes. 1988. Intensification of shrimp culture in earthen ponds in South Carolina: progress and prospects. Journal of World Aquaculture Society 19(4):218-226.

Smith, L.L. and A.L. Lawrence.  1990.  Feasibility of penaeid shrimp culture in inland saline groundwater-fed ponds.  Texas journal of Science 42:3-12.

Wenner, E. C., and D. M. Knott. 1992. Occurrence of Pacific white shrimp, Penaeus vannamei, in coastal waters of South Carolina. Pages 173-181 in M. R. DeVoe, editor. Proceedings of the conferences and workshop: introductions and transfers of marine species: achieving a balance between economic development and resource protection. Unpublished report, South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium.


Other Resources:
Litopenaeus vannamei (Pacific white shrimp) (Gulf of Mexico Program)

Author: Perry, H.

Revision Date: 5/2/2018

Citation Information:
Perry, H., 2024, Litopenaeus vannamei (Boone, 1931): U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/FactSheet.aspx?speciesID=1212, Revision Date: 5/2/2018, Access Date: 7/17/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.


The data represented on this site vary in accuracy, scale, completeness, extent of coverage and origin. It is the user's responsibility to use these data consistent with their intended purpose and within stated limitations. We highly recommend reviewing metadata files prior to interpreting these data.

Citation information: U.S. Geological Survey. [2024]. Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database. Gainesville, Florida. Accessed [7/17/2024].

Contact us if you are using data from this site for a publication to make sure the data are being used appropriately and for potential co-authorship if warranted.

For general information and questions about the database, contact Wesley Daniel. For problems and technical issues, contact Matthew Neilson.