The genome of the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei, contains two sets of variant ribosomal RNA (rRNA) genes, termed the A and S types, that are expressed predominantly during the vertebrate and mosquito stages of the parasite's development respectively. Using in situ hybridization, we have examined the transcriptional activity of the A- and S-type rRNA genes, and the switch in expression of the ribosome populations that occurs after parasite transmission to the mosquito. By detection of precursor rRNA molecules, we show that A-type rRNA transcription is downregulated throughout development in the mosquito, whereas the initiation of S-type rRNA transcription is linked to the proliferative phase of the oocyst. Mature A-type rRNA persists during development of the zygote into the ookinete/young oocyst. In contrast, mature S-type rRNA is first detectable in young oocysts and is subsequently present at high levels during further development of oocysts and sporozoites. These results demonstrate that the switch in transcription between the A- and S-type rRNA genes is developmentally regulated, taking place only as the parasite begins to proliferate in the mosquito. A-type ribosomes are therefore not only translationally active in the early stages of development in the mosquito, but are also crucial at this phase.