A growing number of tissue-specific inherited disorders are associated with impaired ribosome production, despite the universal requirement for ribosome function. Recently, mutations in RPSA, a protein component of the small ribosomal subunit, were discovered to underlie approximately half of all isolated congenital asplenia cases. However, the mechanisms by which mutations in this ribosome biogenesis factor lead specifically to spleen agenesis remain unknown, in part due to the lack of a suitable animal model for study. Here we reveal that RPSA is required for normal spleen development in the frog, Xenopus tropicalis. Depletion of Rpsa in early embryonic development disrupts pre-rRNA processing and ribosome biogenesis, and impairs expression of the key spleen patterning genes nkx2-5, bapx1 and pod1 in the spleen anlage. Importantly, we also show that whereas injection of human RPSA mRNA can rescue both pre-rRNA processing and spleen patterning, injection of human mRNA bearing a common disease-associated mutation cannot. Together, we present the first animal model of RPSA-mediated asplenia and reveal a crucial requirement for RPSA in pre-rRNA processing and molecular patterning during early Xenopus development.