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Distinguishing features include three distinct rows of bony tubercles (see picture) with no scales. The ventral fins form a suction to help secure the fish to the substrate and the colour varies from bluish-grey, yellow-green, or yellow-brown. During the breeding season, males change colour to blue dorsally and red or orange ventrally.
Lumpsuckers are widely distributed around the British and Irish coast with their distribution extending further afield to North America in the west and northern Russia in the east. Their preferred habitat is benthic to between 50 and 150 m depth on rocky bottoms. Occasionally they have been found to 400 m and have also been found on floating seaweed.
Lumpsuckers are valued for their eggs which are sold as a form of caviar. The flesh (fresh or smoked) is eaten in Nordic countries with males being more highly sought after.