BACKGROUND: The telencephalon shows a remarkable structural diversity among vertebrates. In particular, the everted telencephalon of ray-finned fishes has a markedly different morphology compared to the evaginated telencephalon of all other vertebrates. This difference in development has hampered the comparison between different areas of the pallium of ray-finned fishes and the pallial nuclei of all other vertebrates. Various models of homology between pallial subdivisions in ray-finned fishes and the pallial nuclei in tetrapods have been proposed based on connectional, neurochemical, gene expression and functional data. However, no consensus has been reached so far. In recent years, the analysis of conserved developmental marker genes has assisted the identification of homologies for different parts of the telencephalon among several tetrapod species. RESULTS: We have investigated the gene expression pattern of conserved marker genes in the adult zebrafish ( Danio rerio) pallium to identify pallial subdivisions and their homology to pallial nuclei in tetrapods. Combinatorial expression analysis of ascl1a, eomesa, emx1, emx2, emx3, and Prox1 identifies four main divisions in the adult zebrafish pallium. Within these subdivisions, we propose that Dm is homologous to the pallial amygdala in tetrapods and that the dorsal subdivision of Dl is homologous to part of the hippocampal formation in mouse. We have complemented this analysis be examining the gene expression of emx1, emx2 and emx3 in the zebrafish larval brain. CONCLUSIONS: Based on our gene expression data, we propose a new model of subdivisions in the adult zebrafish pallium and their putative homologies to pallial nuclei in tetrapods. Pallial nuclei control sensory, motor, and cognitive functions, like memory, learning and emotion. The identification of pallial subdivisions in the adult zebrafish and their homologies to pallial nuclei in tetrapods will contribute to the use of the zebrafish system as a model for neurobiological research and human neurodegenerative diseases.