We report the first measurements of cell number, total RNA, and transcript accumulations for two actin genes during larval development of the sea urchin Strongylocentrotus purpuratus. At 5 weeks of feeding, when development of laboratory-raised larvae is completed, the cell number has increased about 100-fold with respect to the pluteus-stage embryo to about 150,000 +/- 50,000, and the total RNA has increased 46-fold to about 130 ng per larva. The transcripts of the Cylla cytoskeletal actin gene, which is expressed in adult tissues, continue to accumulate throughout larval development. A contrasting pattern of transcript accumulation is observed for Cyllla, a different cytoskeletal actin gene that in the embryo is expressed only in aboral ectoderm. These transcripts increase in number early in larval development, when the larval epidermis is differentiating, and then decline in quantity. It is known that at metamorphosis the larval epidermis is largely histolyzed and that the Cyllla gene is not expressed in the juvenile or adult.