The surface morphology of the gill epithelium of the dogfish Scyliorhinus canicula L. (collected near Barcelona, Spain, in February-March, 1981) was studied by scanning electron microscopy. Pavement cells exhibited either surface microvilli or microridges, which were randomly distributed on both the primary (afferent and efferent sides and interlamellar spaces) and secondary epithelium. Chloride cell apical regions on the afferent side displayed characteristics closer to freshwater than to marine teleosts: no apical pits were detected; chloride cells displayed longer microvilli than those of adjacent cells. Two morphologically different cell types were identified: a large chloride cell and a smaller cell (probably a chloride cell too), measuring 4 to 7 μm and 1 μm, respectively, the latter being dominant in the interlamellar spaces. Apart from pavement cells, the mucous cell was the prevalent cell type on the efferent region. The respiratory epithelium consisted of a mozaic of typical epithelial cells; some chloride and mucous cells were present, mainly located at the base of the secondary lamellae. Surface morphological changes were monitored after exposing the dogfish to subacute zinc treatment: 10 ppm Zn (ZnSO4) for 3 wk. The chloride cell was the only cell type that underwent any modifications: microvilli became longer and tips were swollen following Zn treatment. The results are discussed in relation to a previous study on the effects of zinc sulphate on chloride cell response and heavy metal distribution in excretory organs of the dogfish. © 1982 Springer-Verlag.