Short description - Dorsal spines (total): 11; Dorsal soft rays (total): 15-17; Anal spines: 3; Anal soft rays: 8. Characterized by brownish grey to charcoal color; head, body and dorsal fin with irregular-shaped white spots and blotches of variable size; adults with ctenoid scales on body in broad zone along middle of side, cycloid elsewhere; body of adult with numerous auxiliary scales; greatest depth of body 3.0-3.4 in SL; rounded caudal fin; short pelvic fins, 2.0-2.7 in head length; head length 2.3-2.5 times in SL; head pointed, interorbital area usually flat, and the dorsal profile almost straight; preopercle rounded, finely serrate; inconspicuous opercular spines; straight, sinuous or slightly concave upper edge of operculum; maxilla naked, mostly covered by upper lip; small or absent canines at front of jaws; 3-5 rows of small teeth in midlateral part of lower jaw.
Occurs in coral reefs near caves and overhangs at depths up to 60 m. Juveniles sometimes found in tide pools.
This species inhabits rocky or coral-rich areas of deep lagoons, channels and outer reef slopes, usually in or near caves (Newman et al. 1997, Anon 2011). It is often found in greater abundances on fringing and intermediate reefs than on barrier reefs. The species appears to prefer certain types of corals (branching or tabular forms), but it is not dependent on live reef habitat (J.H. Choat pers. comm. 2013). Juveniles are found in mangroves and tide pools. It feeds on fish and crustaceans and its maximum length is 76 cm. There has been some evidence of spawning aggregation formation, but it is not yet confirmed. Little is known of its reproductive biology or general life history, including longevity and size or age at sexual maturity.
This species is typically a relatively minor component of most reef fisheries, and global level declines are not known at this time. It may be vulnerable to overfishing by small-scale commercial fishers that typically operate in developing island countries such as Pohnpei and Palau (Rhodes and Tupper 2007).