Giant shrimp invade the Gulf of Mexico, causing concern about its impact on ecosystem and domestic market.

The Asian Tiger Prawn, also called the Asian Black Tiger Shrimp, is taking a foothold in the Gulf of Mexico, and along the southern Atlantic coast.

The black and white striped shrimp, which is originally native to the Asian and Australian coast in the Pacific, can grow up to 13 inches in length.

USGS biologist Pam Fuller says that the Black Tiger shrimp population is growing and that, “We can confirm there was nearly a tenfold jump in reports of Asian Tiger Shrimp in 2011.”

The giant shrimp has a voracious appetite and will eat almost anything in its path, including crustaceans, oysters, small crabs, mollusks, and even other shrimp. Although Black tiger shrimp are edible and there may be a potential market for them in the United States, it still remains a mystery how the invading shrimp will impact the local market and ecosystem. Equally mysterious, is how they got there.

The shrimp were first observed near the U.S. off the southern Atlantic coast in 1988, where they were thought to have been accidentally released from an aquaculture research center. However, those disappeared around 1991 and were not seen again until one was caught by a shrimper in 2006.

Other possibilities of their origin include a breach from a Caribbean shrimp farm where they might have escaped during a hurricane in 2005, or they may have hitched a ride in a ship’s ballast.

Scientists are in the process of studying their DNA in the hopes that it will provide clues to their origin.