Body an elongate oval, compressed; snout profile steep and blunt, especially in large males; teeth fused into a beak with two broad joined plates on each jaw, outer surface of plates smooth, not covered by lips; 1-2 canines on rear side of top jaw; dorsal rays IX, 10; anal rays III, 9; pectoral rays 14-16; tail fin of IP adults slightly concave, that of terminal males strongly so; scales large, smooth, 3 rows on cheek, 2 scales in lowest row; 6 scales on center of nape before dorsal fin; lateral line in 2 sections.
IP: grey on anterior half and whitish posteriorly with small black spots and dark lines on sides and red fins; TP: mainly green to bluish green, sometimes purplish on anterior half giving strong bicolor effect; a pair of blue bands on chin and beak blue green. Juvenile: less than ~ 15 mm - body whitish, with 3 dashed thin brown stripes, lowermost line widest and has pale dots along its length, fins clear; larger individuals (15-25 mm)- body whitish with 3 brown to olive stripes (lower one widest) with white spots, a large white blotch on base of tail fin; a dark bar extending down from base of spines 3-8 of dorsal fin; above 25 mm - 3 stripes well developed, dark bar fades, scales develop dark edges, body with scattered white spots, white blotch on tail fin base.
Size: to 71 cm.
Habitat: it occurs on shallow reefs and around their fringes.
Depth: 1-35 m.
Widespread in the tropical Indo-Pacific from East Africa to the Americas; the central Gulf of California to Ecuador, as well as the Revillagigedos, Clipperton, Cocos, Malpelo and the Galapagos.