Splotch and splotch-delayed mutants have anomalies in certain neural crest cell derivatives as well as neural tube defects. A genetic marker was used to identify mutant, heterozygote, and wild-type embryos within a litter, which enabled us to make intergenotypic comparisons. Histological studies of the lumbosacral region of day 15 and day 16 embryos indicated that the splotch-delayed mutant had similar but less severe defects in spinal ganglion development than those reported for splotch (Auerbach: Journal of Experimental Zoology 127:305-329, 1954). The ganglia were extensively reduced in size, residual, or missing in the splotch-delayed mutant, whereas in the splotch mutant, they were virtually nonexistent. Paired comparison analyses showed that all mutant embryos had a significant reduction in their volume of lumbosacral spinal ganglia when compared to their heterozygous and/or wild-type littermates. Also, some heterozygotes were found to have spinal ganglia volumes that were significantly reduced when compared to wild-type embryos. The volume of spinal ganglia was not related to the severity of the neural tube defect. In fact, three mutant embryos, which did not exhibit a neural tube defect, had spinal ganglia volumes comparable to or less than those mutants with open neural tube lesions or curly tails. This shows that the formation of abnormal neural crest cell derivatives is not a result of the neural tube closure defect. We hypothesize that the two anomalies observed in these mutants have a common etiological basis.