In order to investigate the importance of fluid circulation associated with the formation of ocean-continent transitions (OCT), we examine 162 new heat-flow (HF) measurements in the eastern Gulf of Aden, obtained at close locations along eight seismic profiles and with multi-beam bathymetry. The average HF values in the OCT and in the oceanic domain (similar to 18 m.y.) are very close to the predictions of cooling models, showing that the overall importance of fluids remains small at the present time compared to oceanic ridge flanks of the same age. However, local HF anomalies are observed, although not systematically, in the vicinity of the unsedimented basement and are interpreted by the thermal effect of meteoric fluids flowing laterally. We propose a possible interpretation of hydrothermal paths based on the shape of HF anomalies and on the surface morphology: fluids can circulate either along-dip or along-strike, but are apparently focussed in narrow "pipes". In several locations in the OCT, there is no detectable HF anomaly while the seismic velocity structure suggests serpentinization and therefore past circulation. We relate the existence of the present day fluid circulation in the eastern Gulf of Aden to the presence of unsedimented basement and to the local extensional stress in the vicinity of the Socotra-Hadbeen fault zone. At the scale of rifted-margins, fluid circulation is probably not as important as in the oceanic domain because it can be inhibited rapidly with high sedimentation rates, serpentinization and stress release after the break-up. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.