The binding of mammalian spermatozoa to the egg's extracellular coat, the zona pellucida, is a complex process which culminates in species-specific penetration of the sperm to the egg plasma membrane. To investigate where on the spermatozoon's surface the zona binding sites are located, whole rabbit zonae were labeled with FITC, heat solubilized and used to observe the surface binding patterns on live spermatozoa. Before the acrosome reaction the zona binding sites are located either over the entire head as well as the middle piece or alternatively in patches along the apical ridge of the head. After the acrosome reaction there is a 29% loss of fluorescence and the zona binding sites are present in the posterior aspect of the acrosomal region, the anterior postacrosomal region and the middle piece. These results demonstrate the presence of zona binding sites after the acrosome reaction which would account for the sperm's ability to remain bound to the zona after the acrosome reaction. Further, we report for the first time that solubilized rabbit zonae pellucidae will induce the acrosome reaction in in vitro capacitated rabbit sperm whereas solubilized pig zonae pellucidae will not. Since rabbit sperm bind pig zonae, the induction and specificity of the physiological acrosome reaction must reside in the affinity of the binding rather than the binding itself.