Robust body with sloping forehead, large fins, and a somewhat truncated caudal fin (rounded in juveniles). There are 11-12 spines, the third or fourth being the longest, and 16-18 soft rays in the notched dorsal fin, and 3 spines and 8 soft rays in the anal fin. Body color is tawny brown (shallow water) to pinkish brown or red (deeper water). There are alternating dark (brown or olive) and pale bands along the flanks and onto the dorsal fins, with similar dark bands extending along the head to the snout, a dark saddle on the upper caudal peduncle, and dark spots around the eye. Two color phases, pale and dark, are controlled behaviorally, and change between one and the other is rapid. Grows to about 47 in (120 cm) in total length.
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