Abstract Osteonectin (OSN) is a glycoprotein which is implicated in development, bone formation and mineralisation, tumorigenesis, angiogenesis, and wound healing. Regulation of its expression by hormones may be one of the mechanisms by which the endocrine system affects bone metabolism. As a first step to understanding OSN function in fish, the gene expression of the recently cloned cDNA for sea bream, Sparus auratus, osteonectin (sbOSN) was characterised during embryonic and larval development. sbOSN mRNA was first detected by semi-quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction in embryos at early gastrula and its expression increased continuously until hatch, after which it decreased until 15 days post-hatch (dph), increased transiently until 24 dph and decreased thereafter. In situ hybridisation showed it had a differential tissue distribution which was age dependent. In general, sbOSN mRNA was identified in cartilaginous and calcified structures of both dermal and endochondral origin but its expression was not restricted to the skeleton. sbOSN transcripts were also detected in the skin, perichordal sheath, nerve cord, and kidney tubules.