In vertebrates, muscles of the pectoral girdle connect the forelimbs with the thorax. During development, the myogenic precursor cells migrate from the somites into the limb buds. Whereas most of the myogenic precursors remain in the limb bud to form the forelimb muscles, several cells migrate back toward the trunk to give rise to the superficial pectoral girdle muscles, such as the large pectoral muscle, the latissimus dorsi and the deltoid. Recently, this developing mode has been referred to as the "In-Out" mechanism. The present study focuses on the mechanisms of the "In-Out" migration during formation of the pectoral girdle muscles. Combining in ovo electroporation, tissue slice-cultures and confocal laser scanning microscopy, we visualize live in detail the retrograde migration of myogenic precursors from the forelimb bud into the trunk region by live imaging. Furthermore, we present for the first time evidence for the involvement of the chemokine receptor CXCR4 and its ligand SDF-1 during these processes. After microsurgical implantations of CXCR4 inhibitor beads in the proximal forelimb region of chicken embryos, we demonstrate with the aid of in situ hybridization and live-cell imaging that CXCR4/SDF-1 signaling is crucial for the retrograde migration of pectoral girdle muscle precursors. Moreover, we analyzed the MyoD expression in CXCR4-mutant mouse embryos and observed a considerable decrease in pectoral girdle musculature. We thus demonstrate the importance of the CXCR4/SDF-1 axis for the pectoral girdle muscle formation in avians and mammals.