The development of melanoblasts in normally pigmented and dominant spotting (W) embryos was followed by in situ hybridisation to TRP-2/DT mRNA, which labels migratory melanoblasts from 10 days post coitum. Numerous melanoblasts migrate to the inner ear around 11 days. In contrast, few migratory melanoblasts are associated with the eye or skin at this stage and melanoblasts distribution within the trunk and tail is patchy. The distribution of melanoblasts in 10.5-11-day-old Wv/Wv, Wsh/Wsh and W41/W41 mutants was similar to that in controls but melanoblasts density was lower and by 12 days was severely reduced. These results suggest that mutations of the c-kit receptor tyrosine kinase encoded at the W locus do not alter early migration or differentiation of melanoblasts but severely affect melanoblasts survival.