The ontogeny of the digestive tract (DT) and of Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase localization was investigated during the early postembryonic development (from yolk sac larva to juvenile) of the euryhaline teleost Dicentrarchus labrax reared at two salinities: seawater and diluted seawater. Histology, electron microscopy and immunocytochemistry were used to determine the presence and differentiation of ion transporting cells. At hatching, the DT is an undifferentiated straight tube over the yolk sac. At the mouth opening (day 5), it comprises six segments: buccopharynx, esophagus, stomach, anterior intestine, posterior intestine and rectum, well differentiated at the juvenile stage (day 72). The enterocytes displayed ultrastructural features similar to those of mitochondria-rich cells known to be involved in active ion transport. At hatching, ion transporting cells lining the intestine and the rectum exhibited a Na(+)/K(+)-ATPase activity which increased mainly after the larva/juvenile (20 mm) metamorphic transition. The immunofluorescence intensity was dependent upon the stage of development of the gut as well as on the histological configuration of the analyzed segment. The appearance and distribution of enteric ionocytes and the implication of the DT in osmoregulation are discussed.