The earliest muscle in zebrafish arises from iterated sets of two to six cells in each somite, the muscle pioneers (MP). MP develop synchronously in young trunk myotomes adjacent to the notochord, precisely where the horizontal myoseptum will form. They elongate without cell fusion and differentiate hours earlier than surrounding cells, thus providing a simple and accessible system for in vivo study of myogenesis and muscle patterning. Before the MP form definitive myofibrils they assemble long bundles of actin-containing filaments, similar to "stress-fiber-like structures" reported by others. In fub-1 mutants, in which myofibrils are disorganized in all skeletal muscle cells, the MP appear and elongate normally, but ordered actin filament bundles are not seen. This defect could underlie the later myofibrillar ones, consistent with the proposal that actin filament bundles are essential for proper formation of the muscle contractile apparatus.