T-box (tbx) genes constitute a large family of transcriptional regulators involved in developmental patterning processes. In tetrapods, tbx5 has been implicated in specifying forelimb type identity. Here, we report the cloning of the zebrafish tbx5.1 gene and characterise its expression during zebrafish embryogenesis and early larval development of wild type and mutant embryos that affect pectoral fin patterning. tbx5.1 is expressed during development of the heart, the pectoral fins and the eye. Notably, its expression in the lateral plate mesoderm defines a single and continuous region of heart and pectoral fin precursor cells, and constitutes the earliest specific marker for pectoral fin development in the zebrafish.