Mantle leathery, smooth, cup- or spindle-shaped, conical and rounded behind. No cartilaginous tubercles and hyaline stripes. Head small, ventral side completely covered by large funnel, which exceeds arm bases. Eyes small, elongate, with short stalks, in adults barely stalked, directed anteriorly. Fins at all stages small, paddle-shaped, attached to rear sides of short diamond-shaped lanceola, extending slightly beyond mantle end and joined there by a thin membrane. Arms very short, 3rd longest. Suckers in 2 rows, enlarged in mid-parts of arms in males (but not in females). Tentacles long, strong, not autotomized. Suckers stretching throughout stalk in larvae. Fixing apparatus in adults consisting of alternating suckers and knobs, also stretching throughout stalk. No enlarged club suckers. Medial component of funnel organ with three conical papillae. No funnel valve.
One large eyeball photophore. No arm photophores. Ends of all arms of adult males modified (with small suckers in many rows). Light colored, oval brown or orange chromatophores form transverse rows on mantle sides, irregularly disposed on mid-dorsal and mid-ventral mantle. No small black dots. ML up to 8 cm.
Larvae and juveniles distinguishable by small, paddle-shaped fins, huge funnel (noticeable in larvae at ML 2.5 mm), and transverse rows of chromatophores on sides of mantle.
Three species, 2 in the South Atlantic. Helicocranchia pfefferi may be a species complex.