Mesoderm formation is a hallmark of vertebrate gastrulation and, at the same time, one of the prime examples for epithelio-mesenchymal transformation. Recent advances in experimental embryology and molecular biology have clarified the role of growth factors and genes in this process; however, its microscopic anatomy in higher vertebrates is still far from clear. Therefore, the present study describes the morphology of mesoderm formation in the rabbit embryo, a species which may be representative for both the avian and the mammalian embryo in this respect. Serial semithin sections were correlated with topographical landmarks in surface views of embryonic discs at 6.4, 6.5, and 6.6 days post conceptionem, and selected semithin sections were reembedded for ultrastructural analysis. Mesoderm cells are shown to be generated by ingression of bottle-shaped epiblast cells in the area of the posterior node and the primitive streak. Here, basal endocytotic pits and absence or discontinuity of the basal lamina are taken as suggestive evidence for specific removal of extracellular matrix material. Within the bottle-shaped cells most organelles are concentrated in a narrow apical neck which will subsequently constitute the 'trailing end' of the ingressing mesoderm cells. These features support the assumption that most principles of epithelio-mesenchymal transformation seen during primary mesenchyme formation in the sea urchin also apply to mesoderm formation in vertebrates. However, transient tripartite zonula adherens-type junctions are formed apically between ingressing mesoderm cells and the neighboring epiblast cells. They are interpreted here as being responsible for maintaining supracellular integrity of the embryonic disc during the shedding of mesoderm cells in the amniote embryo.