A fish with an elongated body, not very tall and not very compressed, which is rare in its family; it can reach 30-40 cm in length. The head has large eyes and a small mouth with a row of teeth on each jaw; the upper jaw has 4 prongs and the lower jaw has 5.
It is found in coastal waters in various types of substrate (sand, mud, rocky), forming shoals that ascend to shallow layers during the night and in summer, while it spends the winter between 150 and 200 m deep. It is an omnivorous species that feeds on crustaceans and also on algae when adult. It is hermaphroditic, generally protogynous, reproducing in early spring in the Bay of Biscay.
It can be found from Norway to Angola, including the Canary Islands, Cape Verde and Sao Tome and Principe; it is quite common between the Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar. It also occurs in the Mediterranean and Black Sea.