Chondrychthyans (cartilaginous fishes) are key to understanding the ancestral gnathostome condition since they provide an outgroup to sarcopterygians and actinopterygians. To gain comparative knowledge about the development of the vertebrate serotoninergic systems, we studied by immunohistochemistry the origin, spatiotemporal organization, and migration patterns of serotonin-containing neurons and the growth of axonal pathways in the central nervous system of a shark, the lesser spotted dogfish. Hindbrain serotonin-immunoreactive cells arose close to the floor plate and most populations migrated ventrally and mediolaterally to form the various raphe and reticular groups. The order of appearance of serotoninergic populations in the rhombencephalon and spinal cord (first the superior groups and then the inferior and spinal populations) roughly matched with that reported in other vertebrates but important differences were noted in the formation of prosencephalic groups in fishes. In addition to preoptic and hypothalamic areas, serotoninergic cerebrospinal fluid-contacting cells were observed in the isthmus (raphe dorsalis anterioris). Transient serotonin-immunoreactive cells were noted in the pineal organ, habenula, and pretectum. Further, we provide a revised anatomical framework for reticular and raphe serotoninergic populations considering their origin and segmental organization. Two distinct phases of development of the serotoninergic innervation were distinguished, that of the formation of the main axonal pathways and that of the branching of fibers. The development of main serotoninergic ascending pathways in dogfish was notably similar to that described in mammals. Our findings suggest the conservation of developmental patterns in serotoninergic systems and enhance the importance of elasmobranchs for understanding the early evolution of this system in vertebrates. J. Comp. Neurol. 511:804–831, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.