The proper orientation of mechanosensory hair cells along the lateral-line organ of a fish or amphibian is essential for the animal's ability to sense directional water movements. Within the sensory epithelium, hair cells are polarized in a stereotyped manner, but the mechanisms that control their alignment relative to the body axes are unknown. We have found, however, that neuromasts can be oriented either parallel or perpendicular to the anteroposterior body axis. By characterizing the strauss mutant zebrafish line and by tracking labeled cells, we have demonstrated that neuromasts of these two orientations originate from, respectively, the first and second primordia. Furthermore, altering the migratory pathway of a primordium reorients a neuromast's axis of planar polarity. We propose that the global orientation of hair cells relative to the body axes is established through an interaction between directional movement by primordial cells and the timing of neuromast maturation.