In the chick embryo, neural cells acquire midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord character over a approximately 6 hr period during gastrulation. The convergent actions of four signals appear to specify caudal neural character. Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) and a paraxial mesoderm-caudalizing (PMC) activity are involved, but neither signal is sufficient to induce any single region. FGFs act indirectly by inducing mesoderm that expresses PMC and retinoid activity and also directly on prospective neural cells, in combination with PMC activity and a rostralizing signal, to induce midbrain character. Hindbrain character emerges from cells that possess the potential to acquire midbrain character upon exposure to higher levels of PMC activity. Induction of spinal cord character appears to involve PMC and retinoid activities.