With the imminent completion of the whole genome sequence of humans, increasing attention is being focused on the annotation of cis-regulatory elements in the human genome. Comparative genomics approaches based on evolutionary conservation have proved useful in the detection of conserved cis-regulatory elements. The pufferfish, Fugu rubripes, is an attractive vertebrate model for comparative genomics, by virtue of its compact genome and maximal phylogenetic distance from mammals. Fugu has lost a large proportion of nonessential DNA, and retained single orthologs for many duplicate genes that arose in the fish lineage. Non-coding sequences conserved between fugu and mammals have been shown to be functional cis-regulatory elements. Thus, fugu is a model fish genome of choice for discovering evolutionarily conserved regulatory elements in the human genome. Such evolutionarily conserved elements are likely to be shared by all vertebrates, and related to regulatory interactions fundamental to all vertebrates. The functions of these conserved vertebrate elements can be rapidly assayed in mammalian cell lines or in transgenic systems such as zebrafish/medaka and Xenopus, followed by validation of crucial elements in transgenic rodents. BioEssays 27:100–107, 2005. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.