Several taxonomic characters, including the number of trunk myomeres, proportional body measurements and patterns of external and internal pigmentation, have been investigated in populations of ammocoetes belonging to the three species of lampreys found in British rivers. Petromyzon marinus can be readily distinguished by the pigmentary pattern in the tail and on the oral hood, and by the much higher number of trunk myomeres. Although no character can be used to separate with certainty the larvae of Lampetra fluviatilis and Lampetra planeri, significant differences were found between the mean number of trunk myomeres in the two species. Moreover, the values for ammocoetes were virtually identical to those of the respective post-larval stages, at which phase in the life cycle the two Lampetra species are clearly distinguishable. The incidence of pigmentation on the tongue precursor was much higher in larval populations of L. fluviatilis than in those of L. planeri and there was also a difference in the rate of change in the relative length of the trunk and tail. Where comparisons can be made, the results in this paper are in agreement with those of most other European and North American workers. The data differ markedly, however, from that contained in the only other previous detailed systematic study on British larval lampreys, which was subsequently used as the basis for taxonomic keys.