Background: Ribosomal proteins (RPs) are key components of ribosomes, the cellular organelle responsible for protein biosynthesis in cells. Their levels can vary as a function of organism growth and development; however, some RPs have been associated with other cellular processes or extraribosomal functions. Their high representation in cDNA libraries has resulted in the increase of RP sequences available from different organisms and their proposal as appropriate molecular markers for phylogenetic analysis. Results: The development of large-scale genomics of Senegalese sole (Solea senegalensis) and Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), two commercially important flatfish species, has made possible the identification and systematic analysis of the complete set of RP sequences for the small (40S) ribosome subunit. Amino acid sequence comparisons showed a high similarity both between these two flatfish species and with respect to other fish and human. EST analysis revealed the existence of two and four RPS27 genes in Senegalese sole and Atlantic halibut, respectively. Phylogenetic analysis clustered RPS27 in two separate clades with their fish and mammalian counterparts. Steady-state transcript levels for eight RPs (RPS2, RPS3a, RPS15, RPS27-1, RPS27-2, RPS27a, RPS28, and RPS29) in sole were quantitated during larval development and in tissues, using a real-time PCR approach. All eight RPs exhibited different expression patterns in tissues with the lowest levels in brain. On the contrary, RP transcripts increased co-ordinately after first larval feeding reducing progressively during the metamorphic process. Conclusion: The genomic resources and knowledge developed in this survey will provide new insights into the evolution of Pleuronectiformes. Expression data will contribute to a better understanding of RP functions in fish, especially the mechanisms that govern growth and development in larvae, with implications in aquaculture.