Broadtail squids are also called flying squids or veined squid. These cephalopods are similar in aspect to the European squid, but with less gastronomic quality. It has a long body, with an internal shell and a sac of brownish coloured ink. On the outside, it is light in colour, splattered with small violet coloured dots which go darker when the animal is taken out of the water. In general, the Mediterranean ones are smaller in size – between 20 and 25 centimetres long – whilst the Atlantic ones can even measure up to 75 centimetres.

Other known species of the same family are the flying squid (Illex coindetti), smaller than the common broadtail squid, and the Argentinean broadtail squid (Illex argentinus), of very good quality.