Sex chromosomes of birds and mammals are highly differentiated and share several cytological features. However, comparative gene mapping reveals extensive conserved synteny between the chicken Z sex chromosome and human chromosome 9 but not the human X sex chromosome, implying an independent origin of avian and mammalian sex chromosomes. To better understand the evolution of the avian Z chromosome we analysed the synteny of chicken Z-linked genes in zebrafish, which is the best-mapped teleost genome so far. Existing zebrafish maps do not support the existence of an ancestral Z linkage group in the zebrafish genome, whereas mammalian X-linked genes show at least some degree of synteny conservation. This is consistent with in situ hybridisation mapping data in the freshwater pufferfish, Tetraodon nigroviridis where mammalian X-linked genes show a much higher degree of conserved synteny than human chromosome 9 or the avian Z chromosome. Collectively, these data argue in favour of a more recent evolution of the avian Z chromosome, compared with the mammalian X.