Boron is the only element known to be essential for plants, but only circumstantial evidence for essentiality exists in animals. We report here that boron is essential for the embryonic development of zebrafish (Danio rerio). Zebrafish were maintained in water with a boron concentration of 0.1 micromol l-1 or supplemented to a concentration of 45 micromol l-1 using ultrapure boric acid. Both groups were fed boron-depleted brine shrimp. This procedure depleted the boron content of the blastulas from low-boron parents to only 5 % of the boron content of the blastulas from boron-supplemented parents. Sperm from low-boron males successfully fertilized eggs from low-boron females, but 92 % of the embryos died within 10 days. The early cleavage stage of development was the most sensitive to boron deficiency. Of the fertilized embryos, 46% did not live to complete the blastula stage. Repletion of low-boron embryos during the first hour after fertilization rescued them from death. These observations provide strong evidence that boron is essential for zebrafish development.

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