This marine species is highly variable in color and the length and shape of its spines. It lives permanently attached to hard objects like rocks or piers, and in life is covered with algae and sponges that settle and grow among the spines, concealing the animal altogether. The bright colors and patterns are only revealed with careful cleaning. It can be found from North Carolina and Texas to Brazil, in shallow to moderately deep water. Spectacular specimens are often collected by divers from the legs of oil drilling platforms.