The segmentation gene hunchback (hb) plays a central role in determining the anterior-posterior pattern in the Drosophila embryo. We have cloned the homologue of hb from the flour beetle Tribolium and show that, on the basis of its expression pattern, most of its functions seem to be conserved between these two species. Like Drosophila, Tribolium has a maternal hb expression that appears to be under translational control by a factor at the posterior pole of the embryo. The maternal expression is followed by a zygotic expression in the region of the developing head and thoracic segments. During germ band extension, a posterior expression domain appears that is likely to be homologous to the posterior blastoderm expression of hb in Drosophila. These observations suggest that hb may have the same functions in early Drosophila and Tribolium development, despite the different types of embryogenesis in these two species (long versus short germ development). One differing aspect of hb expression in Tribolium concerns a structure that is not present in Drosophila, namely the serosa. An hb expression domain at the anterior pole precisely demarcates the border between the extraembryonic serosa and the embryonic field in the Tribolium embryo at an early stage, and hb protein remains expressed in the serosa cells until the end of embryogenesis.