The amphibian egg undergoes a 30 degree rotation of its subcortical contents relative to its surface during the first cell cycle, a displacement of 350 micron in 50 min. This is directly visualized by following the movement of an array of Nile blue (a subcortical stain) spots applied to the egg periphery (Vincent, Oster, and Gerhart: Dev Bio 113:484-500, '86). We have investigated the mechanochemical basis of this unusual cell motility. Subcortical rotation depends on microtubule integrity during its entire course and is insensitive to inhibitors of microfilament assembly. It does not depend on newly synthesized proteins for its operation or timing, and it does not involve calcium-dependent processes. Finally, we show that vegetal fragments of the egg can complete rotation on their own, indicating that mechanochemical components can operate locally in this hemisphere.