The effect of early (embryonic and larval) thermal history on subsequent (juvenile) white muscle hyperplasia was studied in a teleost fish, the European sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax L.). D. labrax, incubated and reared at constant temperatures of 13 degrees C, 15 degrees C or 20 degrees C from the embryonic stage of half epiboly up to 18-19 mm in total length, were transferred to ambient seawater temperature and reared for the subsequent 14 months on commercial feed. The somatic growth of juveniles was linked to annual variations of ambient seawater temperature and inversely related to early rearing temperature, so that, after 14 months, the juveniles originally reared at low temperatures had compensated for the growth retardation experienced during early life. The white muscle growth process of juveniles was quantified after two periods of growth opportunity at ambient seawater temperature (100 and 400 days post-transfer) as well as, in order to follow total-length-dependent effects of early temperature and to discriminate total-length-independent effects of early temperature, on juveniles from the three batches sampled at six successive equivalent total lengths (31-33, 84-88, 141-145, 166-172, 196-206 and 211-220 mm). Our data demonstrate the existence of a seasonal recruitment of new white muscle fibres when seawater temperature increases and of a shrinkage of the largest white muscle fibres during the winter months. The seasonal recruitment of new white muscle fibres occurring in juveniles is linked to their early rearing temperature. Juveniles originating from low temperatures have a higher and longer capacity to recruit new white muscle fibres when seawater temperature increases, supporting their better somatic growth. This finding is discussed in relation to the early (embryonic and larval) myogenic processes of the three populations and is related to their sex ratio.