Pink shrimp are medium-sized and live between three and five years. They are protandric hermaphrodites, beginning life as males and later becoming females. Juveniles mature and breed as males during their first year, and later become and breed as females for the following years. The proportion of shrimp that change sex varies from year to year. High fishing pressures or naturally high mortality rates can induce males to change into females at a younger age, or even completely skip the male stage.
Mating takes place in the fall when females produce up to 3000 eggs, which are internally fertilized. The eggs are extruded to the underside of the female’s abdomen shortly after mating, where they are fertilized by a packet of sperm left by a male, then attached to the female’s specialized legs. The female carries them under her abdomen for about six days before the eggs develop into planktotrophic larvae, which hatch in the spring. They remain as plankton for four to six months, drifting with the currents. Pink shrimp are smaller than most tropical shrimp, growing up to 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in length. Growth rates vary by region, sex, age, and timing of gender transition – females tend to grow larger than males.
Because they reside primarily in deep water, cold water shrimp do not ingest mud or sand, giving them clearer veins than those of warm water shrimp. They also have a longer rostrum, and claws on one pair of feet instead of three. Their prey consists primarily of smaller planktonic animals, but adults may also feed on marine worms, small crustaceans, sponges, and dead animals. They are prey to many fish species including hake, arrowtooth flounder, sablefish, petrale sole, rockfish, and skates.