The development of the leg and wing primordia in the Drosophila embryo has been traced using molecular markers. Distal-less and disconnected gene expression provide molecular labels for the leg primordia throughout embryonic development, disconnected expression in the developing leg primordia depends on Distal-less activity. The leg primordia arise as discrete clusters of cells that occupy well defined positions in the embryonic ectoderm. At later stages of embryogenesis the primordia become morphologically recognizable and are intimately associated with the development of the Keilin's organs. The presumptive leg disc and the Keilin's organ appear to derive from a common primordium. Similarly the Abnormal leg pattern gene provides a molecular label for the wing and haltere primordia. The dorsal thoracic primordia appear to be of independent origin from the legs.