For many years the mechanisms by which skeletal muscles in higher vertebrates come to be composed of diverse fiber types distributed in distinctive patterns has interested cell and developmental biologists. The fiber composition of skeletal muscles varies from class to class and from muscle to muscle within the vertebrates. The developmental basis for these events is the subject of this review. Because an individual multinucleate vertebrate skeletal muscle fiber is formed by the fusion of many individual myoblasts, more attention, in recent times, has been directed toward the origins and differences among myoblasts, and more emphasis has been placed on the lineal relationship of myoblasts to fibers. This is a review of studies related to the concepts of myogenic cell lineage in higher vertebrate development with emphases on some of the most challenging problems of myogenesis including the embryonic origins of myogenic precursor cells, the mechanisms of fiber type diversity and patterning, the distinctions among myoblasts during myogenesis, and the current hypotheses of how a variety of factors, intrinsic and extrinsic to the myoblast, determine the definitive phenotype of a muscle fiber.