Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are formed and degraded in all aerobic organisms, but their role during embryonic development has not yet been well established. In this paper, we report the activities of various enzymes involved in antioxidant metabolism during the first 7 days of embryonic development of Xenopus laevis embryos. During the first two days of development, embryo antioxidant metabolism is based on catalase and superoxide dismutase activities. Later, the glutathione system is activated, and the activity of all the enzymes involved increases. The results presented in this study, together with previously reported data, support the hypothesis that antioxidant defences may include enzymes that are genetically regulated, while the other systems that appear to be environmentally modulated become relevant later in development, probably to protect embryos from environmental and toxic factors.