Previous analyses of labelled clones of cells within the developing nervous system of the mouse have indicated that descendants are initially dispersed rostrocaudally followed by more local proliferation, which is consistent with the progressing node's contributing descendants from a resident population of progenitor cells as it advances caudally. Here we electroporated an expression vector encoding green fluorescent protein into the chicken embryo near Hensen's node to test and confirm the pattern inferred in the mouse. This provides a model in which a proliferative stem zone is maintained in the node by a localized signal; those cells that are displaced out of the stem zone go on to contribute to the growing axis. To test whether fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signalling could be involved in the maintenance of the stem zone, we co-electroporated a dominant-negative FGF receptor with a lineage marker, and found that it markedly alters the elongation of the spinal cord primordium. The results indicate that FGF receptor signalling promotes the continuous development of the posterior nervous system by maintaining presumptive neural progenitors in the region near Hensen's node. This offers a potential explanation for the mixed findings on FGF in the growth and patterning of the embryonic axis.