dHAND and eHAND are related basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors that are expressed in the cardiac mesoderm and in numerous neural crest-derived cell types in chick and mouse. To better understand the evolutionary development of overlapping expression and function of the HAND genes during embryogenesis, we cloned the zebrafish and Xenopus orthologues. Comparison of dHAND sequences in zebrafish, Xenopus, chick, mouse and human demonstrated conservation throughout the protein. Expression of dHAND in zebrafish was seen in the earliest precursors of all lateral mesoderm at early gastrulation stages. At neurula and later stages, dHAND expression was observed in lateral precardiac mesoderm, branchial arch neural crest derivatives and posterior lateral mesoderm. At looping heart stages, cardiac dHAND expression remained generalized with no apparent regionalization. Interestingly, no eHAND orthologue was found in zebrafish. In Xenopus, dHAND and eHAND were co-expressed in the cardiac mesoderm without the segmental restriction seen in mice. Xenopus dHAND and eHAND were also expressed bilaterally in the lateral mesoderm without any left-right asymmetry. Within the branchial arches, XdHAND was expressed in a broader domain than XeHAND, similar to their mouse counterparts. Together, these data demonstrate conservation of HAND structure and expression across species.