Developing muscles contain at least two types of myoblasts. Early myoblasts are the first myoblast to form and are the only myoblasts present during primary myotube formation. By the time secondary myotube formation begins, early myoblasts are rare and late myoblasts are common. The late myoblasts have been postulated to give rise to secondary myotubes. While this is generally accepted, it is unclear whether late myoblasts also contribute to the growth of primary myotubes. One study has produced evidence that myoblasts present during secondary myogenesis selectively fuse with each other or with secondary myotubes, but not with primary myotubes (Harris et al. [1989a] Development 107:771-784). However, the sizes of primary myotubes increase during secondary myotube formation. We have therefore re-examined the question of whether primary myotubes absorb new nuclei during secondary myotube formation. Pregnant rats were given a single intraperitoneal injection of 5 mg of 5-bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) on one embryonic day (from E13 to E19) and their embryos removed on E20. The brominated-nuclei were labelled with an antibody to BrdU and the myotubes were marked with anti-myosin antibodies. Double labelled sections from the soleus, tibialis anterior, and extensor digitorum longus muscles were examined with a confocal microscope. The numbers and locations of labelled nuclear profiles in primary and secondary myotubes were counted and recorded. The results show: (1) that primary myotubes absorb nuclei at all stages of development, including the period of secondary myotube formation; (2) that in the early stages of secondary myotube formation, more myoblasts fuse with primary than secondary myotubes whereas this situation is reversed by the end of secondary myotube formation; and (3) that the nuclei added to primary and secondary myotubes during the early stages of their formation are located within the middle of E20 muscles. The nuclei added to growing myotubes are preferentially located at the ends of the muscles.