The para locus encodes the predominant class of sodium channels expressed in Drosophila neurons. Previous sequence analysis of para cDNAs indicated the occurrence of alternative splicing at several sites within the open reading frame. Here we report a detailed analysis of this alternative splicing and its regulation during development. We have used a combination of RNA-PCR and sequence analysis to examine a 1.7 kilobase region of the para mRNA that encompasses the previously reported sites of alternative splicing. Five sites of alternative splicing were identified; 48 different splice variants could be generated by the differential exon usage observed. The number of splice forms and their relative frequency in vivo were characterized in RNA samples of both embryos and adults. The range of splice types was found to be much more diverse in adults than in embryos; of a total of 19 different combinations of alternative exons, 11 splice types were found in embryos and 18 in adults. Usage of some individual alternative exons changed during development; a newly identified exon, which is found in one of two forms either 24 or 30 base pairs long, was present in about 85% of para transcripts from embryos but only 7% of those in adults. These data suggest that a wide variety of subtly distinct Na channel isoforms are present in Drosophila, and that these may provide a range of voltage-gated sodium channel functions. Although multiple sodium channel genes have already been described in both Drosophila and mammalian systems, this study provides a clear indication that sodium channel variability may be much greater than previously thought.