In Drosophila, a small group of maternal effect genes, including oskar, defines a shared pathway leading to the provision of two determinants at the posterior pole of the embryo. One determinant is the posterior body patterning morphogen nanos, and the other directs germ cell formation. Overexpression of oskar causes the shared pathway to be hyperactivated, with excess nanos activity present throughout the embryo and a superabundance of posterior pole cells. In addition, presumptive pole cells appear at a novel anterior position. Strikingly, formation of these ectopic pole cells is enhanced in nanos mutants. This observation may reflect competition between nanos and the germ cell determinant for a shared and limiting precursor.