Micromass cultures prepared from stage 23, 24, or 25 chick wing buds and cultured under identical conditions produce similar numbers of myoblasts. After treatment with the DNA synthesis inhibitor cytosine-1-beta-D-arabinofuranoside, [3H]thymidine labeling and autoradiography of the cultures show that the increase in myoblast number during the first 48 hr of culture is due primarily to cell division. Micromass cultures prepared from proximal and distal portions of stage 23 or 24 wing buds have very different chondrogenic potentials in vitro (B.J. Swalla, E.M. Owens, T.F. Linsenmayer, and M. Solursh (1983). Dev. Biol. 97, 59-69) but a similar myogenic potential under these culture conditions. Medium supplements that significantly enhance chondrogenesis by proximal cell cultures, such as low serum or 1 mM db cyclic AMP, do not affect the number of myoblasts per unit area of culture during the first 3 days. Muscle cells are eventually reduced in number in whole limb micromass cultures, yet persist as long as 6 days in proximal and distal cultures. These results suggest that myogenic cells are already committed in the early limbs but are inhibited from differentiation in situ until a later time. Myogenesis and chondrogenesis occur independently in culture, consistent with the idea that these two differentiated cells are derived from two separate cell populations. Furthermore, treatments which enhance chondrogenesis do not act indirectly by killing the myoblast population in these cultures.