The first cleavage of the Caenorhabditis elegans embryo is asymmetrical, producing daughters with different cell fates. During the first cell cycle, P granules, cytoplasmic components that are segregated to the germ-line, are localized to the posterior of the embryo. It has been hypothesized that the asymmetrical behavior of the daughters of the first division results from a similar localization of developmental determinants. A process called pseudocleavage also occurs during the first cell cycle: Anterior cortical contractions culminate in a single partial constriction of the embryo called the pseudocleavage furrow. Coincident with pseudocleavage, there is an anteriorly directed flow of cortical cytoplasm and a posteriorly directed flow of internal cytoplasm. Foci of filamentous cortical actin become asymmetrically distributed into an anterior cap. Roles for these various first cell cycle events in cytoplasmic localization and development have been suggested but remain unclear. We have isolated a maternal effect mutation, nop-1(it142), which abolishes the anterior cortical contractions and the pseudocleavage furrow. In addition, cortical actin foci remain uniformly distributed in most embryos. Despite these defects, cytoplasmic and cortical streaming is present and P granules are localized to the posterior of early embryos. In most embryos from mutant mothers, development proceeds normally and the embryos hatch and grow into fertile adults. We conclude that the pseudocleavage contractions and furrow are dispensable for the development of C. elegans.