In the chick embryo hindbrain, morphological segmentation into rhombomeres is matched by metameric patterns of early neuronal differentiation and axonogenesis. Boundaries between rhombomeres coincide with boundaries of expression of murine regulatory genes. By clonal analysis using intracellular marking, we show here that the rhombomere boundaries are partitions across which cells do not move. When a parent cell is marked before the appearance of rhombomere boundaries, the resulting clone is able to spread into the neighbouring rhombomere. When marked after boundary appearance, the clone still expands freely within the rhombomere of origin, but it is now restricted at the boundaries. Rhombomeres in the chick embryo thus behave like polyclonal units, raising the possibility that they are analogous to the compartments of insects.