Diagnosis: upper profile of head regularly and gently curved from the nape; eye very large, its diameter larger than length of snout; sub-orbital narrow. Teeth caniniform in several rows, the outer the strongest; 4 anterior fangs on the upper jaw, 10 smaller canines on the lower jaw; gillrakers 17-20 lower, 9-12 upper. D XI-XII + 10-11; A III + 8. Length of dorsal spines increasing to fourth or fifth, the following subequal. Lateral line scales 49-55 to caudal base. Colour: red; base of spinous dorsal whitish; anal with a narrow white margin; inferior edge of the lower lobe of caudal white. Size:to 65 cm SL, usually 16-24 cm.
Habitat: inshore waters on rocky or muddy bottoms from 20 to 300 m (Atlantic), less in Mediterranean (100-200 m Aegean Sea, 250 m Lebanon coasts). Large specimens further from the shore than the young; seasonal migrations to and off the coast according to local hydrological variations and biological cycle. Food: carnivorous (fish, crustaceans), young planktonophagous. Reproduction: March-April (Atlantic), April-May (southern Mediterranean), July-August (Aegean Sea), winter (eastern Mediterranean); maturity at 2 years (about 24 cm); gonochoric; sex ratio: 70% females (Atlantic).
Distribution: Mediterranean, very rare in the north-western basin, common in the south-western and abundant in the eastern basin; absent in Black Sea; Atlantic from Portugal (rare) to Namibia, abundant along Morocco coasts.