Data from bottom trawl surveys conducted each summer, winter and spring on the Cretan shelf from 1988 to 1991, were used to study the age, growth, maturity and bathymetric distribution of red pandora (Pagellus erythrinus). The good agreement of back-calculated and observed lengths-at-age with length frequencies and the marginal increment analysis, supported the annual nature of scale marks. A comparison of available growth data from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic revealed higher lengths-at-age for red pandora in the north-western Mediterranean and the Atlantic than in the central and eastern Mediterranean. The auximetric analysis, i.e. the double logarithmic plot of the parameter K of the von Bertalanffy growth function vs asymptotic length (L∞), showed a strong negative relationship for the central and eastern Mediterranean data set, implying a common ‘growth space’ for the populations in these areas. Lengths-at-maturity were lower on the Cretan shelf than in the Atlantic. These differences were attributed to the synergistic combination of trophic and thermal conditions. Depth, temperature and salinity data were combined with biological data on abundance, fish size, age and maturity. In general, mean size increased with bottom depth because smaller individuals tended to be found in shallower and warmer waters. Individuals having reached first maturity were mainly distributed in the periphery of the algal/angiosperm meadows (60–80 m). All detailed studies of the bathymetric distribution and movements of shelf-dwelling demersal species (Mullus barbatus, Mullus surmuletus, Lepidotrigla cavillone and Pagellus erythrinus) in the Mediterranean show that these species are characterized by a spring–summer spawning season, a high concentration of spawning adults at mid-shelf depths, and nursery grounds located in the vegetated shallows. This multispecies pattern might have an adaptive function with both ecological and management implications.