Identification of substances able to elicit physiological or behavioural processes that are related to reproduction would greatly contribute to the domestication of commercially important crustaceans that do not reproduce easily in captivity. Crustaceans are thought to release urine signals used for chemical communication involved in courtship behaviour. In contrast to insects, very little is known about the endocrinological processes underlying this phenomenon. Therefore, an extract of 3500 central nervous systems of female white shrimp Penaeus vannamei was screened for myotropic activity in order to purify pyrokinin-like peptides that belong to the pyrokinin/PBAN neuropeptide family. Members of this family regulate reproductive processes in insects, including pheromone biosynthesis. Purification of these pyrokinins was achieved by a combination of reversed-phase and normal-phase chromatography. Subsequent characterization by mass spectrometry, Edman degradation and peptide synthesis resulted in the elucidation of two novel peptides. Pev-PK 1 has the primary sequence DFAFSPRL-NH(2) and a second peptide (Pev-PK 2) is characterized as the nonapeptide ADFAFNPRL-NH(2). Pev-PK 1 contains the typical FXPRL-NH(2) (X = G, S, T or V) C-terminal sequence that characterizes members of the versatile pyrokinin/PBAN family. Pev-PK 2 displays an Asn residue at the variable X position of the core pyrokinin sequence. These crustacean pyrokinins are the first to be found in a noninsect. The synthetic peptides display myotropic activity on the Leucophaea maderae as well as on the Astacus leptodactylus hindgut.