We have analysed the contributions of neural crest and mesoderm to mammalian craniofacial mesenchyme and its derivatives by cell lineage tracing experiments in mouse embryos, using the permanent genetic markers Wnt1-cre for neural crest and Mesp1-cre for mesoderm, combined with the Rosa26 reporter. At the end of neural crest cell migration (E9.5) the two patterns are reciprocal, with a mutual boundary just posterior to the eye. Mesodermal cells expressing endothelial markers (angioblasts) are found not to respect this boundary; they are associated with the migrating neural crest from the 5-somite stage, and by E9.5 they form a pre-endothelial meshwork throughout the cranial mesenchyme. Mesodermal cells of the myogenic lineage also migrate with neural crest cells, as the branchial arches form. By E17.5 the neural crest-mesoderm boundary in the subectodermal mesenchyme becomes out of register with that of the underlying skeletogenic layer, which is between the frontal and parietal bones. At E13.5 the primordia of these bones lie basolateral to the brain, extending towards the vertex of the skull during the following 4-5 days. We used DiI labelling of the bone primordia in ex-utero E13.5 embryos to distinguish between two possibilities for the origin of the frontal and parietal bones: (1) recruitment from adjacent connective tissue or (2) proliferation of the original primordia. The results clearly demonstrated that the bone primordia extend vertically by intrinsic growth, without detectable recruitment of adjacent mesenchymal cells.