A total of 11 enzymes coded by 14 loci were assayed for each of 17 populations (from the north east Atlantic and Mediterranean) of seven flatfish species, including representatives of three of the four European families of the order Pleuronectiformes. Diagnostic alleles were observed for each species and there were fixed differences between the species at many loci. Thus all species were genetically distinct, although there were some common alleles. Hobs was higher than the average of a range of fish species and was also higher than that of vertebrate species as a whole. It seems that flatfish as a group may show higher levels of genetic variation than other fish. Values of genetic identity for all pairwise comparisons fell comfortably within the ranges expected. The data support the grouping of plaice and flounder into a single genus, Pleuronectes, but it is concluded that the retention of the dab in a separate genus, Limanda, is justified. A high level of genetic divergence was found between Dover and thickback soles. Genetic divergence data support the hypothesis that Pleuronectes fiesus luscus in the Aegean Sea is a distinct subspecies of Pleuronectes fiesus (flounder). The data show a clear separation of the Mediterranean Dover sole population from those in the Atlantic. Low genetic divergence was observed between the Aegean Sea and Atlantic brill populations. It is speculated that about 5 Mya the families Pleuronectidae and later Soleidae evolved from the ancestral Scophthalmidae.