In the Xenopus gastrula, the mesoderm moves as a coherent cell aggregate across the blastocoel roof toward the animal pole. We show that the cohesion of the mesoderm is not only mechanically necessary, but that aggregate formation has profound effects on the migratory behavior of mesoderm cells. Whereas isolated mesoderm cells are bi- or multipolar, move stepwise and change their direction of movement frequently, aggregated mesoderm cells migrating on their in vivo substrate appear unipolar and move continuously and persistently. Moreover, only mesoderm cell aggregates, but not single cells, can follow guidance cues present in the extracellular matrix of the blastocoel roof substrate. Thus, the cohesion of the mesodermal cell mass is an essential feature of mesoderm migration during Xenopus gastrulation. We show that the Ca(2+)-dependent cell adhesion molecule U-cadherin is involved in mediating this cohesion.