Among vertebrates, some teleosts are unique in having bone which lacks osteocytes embedded in the matrix. The fate of cells that secrete the matrix of these acellular bones has not been investigated thoroughly. Histological and fluorescent microscopic analysis of the vertebral bone of Oryzias latipes demonstrated that acellularity is not a secondary appearance of an early cellular bone during ontogeny. Vertebral bone is devoid of cells embedded in the matrix throughout development. Cells that secrete bone matrix do not become trapped in their own secretion. Instead, they always remain as a surface layer over the outer surface of the bone. Fluorescent microscopic visualization of tetracycline injected into growing fish demonstrated that bone was only deposited by osteoblasts lining the outer surface of the bone; no deposition of bone took place on the inner surface.