Excitability properties of isolated frog and rat sciatic nerve fibers were examined using intra-axonal and sucrose-gap recording techniques. Paired stimulation experiments on rat myelinated fibers indicate that a small proportion (11%; n = 84) of these axons demonstrate decreased threshold indicative of a supernormal period. In contrast, 81% (n = 23) of frog axons displayed a supernormal period. A depolarizing afterpotential was observed in most of the rat and frog fibers having a supernormal period and the depolarizing afterpotential increased in magnitude and duration during hyperpolarization. In addition to whole nerve stimulation, a supernormal period could be induced by stimulation of a single axon via current passage through the recording microelectrode. Brief (2-5 ms) subthreshold depolarizing pulses were followed by a slowly decaying depolarization and a period of increased excitability that mimicked the supernormal period. A supernormal period was also observed in the whole nerve preparation using a sucrose-gap technique. The magnitude and duration of the supernormal period, as measured in the sucrose-gap, were greater for frog nerve than for rat nerve. Additionally, a larger postspike negativity, the extracellular equivalent of the intra-axonally observed depolarizing afterpotential, was present in sucrose-gap recordings for frog nerve than for rat nerve. The results indicate that the depolarizing afterpotential is an important determinant of the supernormal period, and that both the depolarizing afterpotential and supernormal period are more prominent in frog than in rat sciatic nerve.