Pre-mRNA splicing is a critical step of gene expression in eukaryotes. Transcriptome-wide splicing patterns are complex and primarily regulated by a diverse set of recognition elements and associated RNA-binding proteins. The retention and splicing (RES) complex is formed by three different proteins (Bud13p, Pml1p and Snu17p) and is involved in splicing in yeast. However, the importance of the RES complex for vertebrate splicing, the intronic features associated with its activity, and its role in development are unknown. In this study, we have generated loss-of-function mutants for the three components of the RES complex in zebrafish and showed that they are required during early development. The mutants showed a marked neural phenotype with increased cell death in the brain and a decrease in differentiated neurons. Transcriptomic analysis of bud13, snip1 (pml1) and rbmx2 (snu17) mutants revealed a global defect in intron splicing, with strong mis-splicing of a subset of introns. We found these RES-dependent introns were short, rich in GC and flanked by GC depleted exons, all of which are features associated with intron definition. Using these features, we developed and validated a predictive model that classifies RES dependent introns. Altogether, our study uncovers the essential role of the RES complex during vertebrate development and provides new insights into its function during splicing.