The neural dependence of primary and secondary myogenesis and its relation to fiber-type differentiation was immunocytochemically investigated in chicken limb muscles. In a previous study, we demonstrated that a novel combination of slow myosin and fast Ca2(+)-ATPase antibodies differentially stained mutually exclusive populations of myotubes, which in the slow region of the iliofibularis allowed us to visualize primary and secondary myotubes and to quantify their development. When these antibodies were used to stain myotubes in muscles that were either chronically paralyzed by d-tubocurarine or denervated, we were surprised to observe by both LM and EM analysis that secondary myotubes formed in both cases, in contrast to the widely held tenet that nerve activity is necessary for secondary myogenesis. Also, an unexpected decrease in the number of primary myotubes occurred before the onset of secondary myotube formation. Although the total quantity of myotubes formed was drastically reduced by curare treatment or denervation, the ratio of fast to slow myotubes increased normally between st 34 and 39 1/2. Paralysis by curare did produce a striking increase in the size of individual myotube clusters, indicating that blocking nerve activity either increases adhesion between myotubes or prevents a normal decrease in adhesion during development which may be necessary for myofiber separation from clusters. Our findings indicate that both slow primary and fast secondary myotube populations are composed of nerve-dependent and independent individuals and that the relative quantities of fast and slow myotubes are regulated independent of innervation.