1. The K+ currents of spinal neurons acutely dissociated from Xenopus larvae were studied and compared with those of neurons dissociated from Xenopus embryos. 2. The density of total outward current in the larval and embryonic neurons remained the same from stage 37/38 to stage 42. 3. Almost all neurons at stage 42 expressed a fast activating Ca2+-dependent K+ current (IKCa) that was largely absent from embryonic neurons. Whereas IKCa became larger and more prevalent during development, the delayed rectifier K+ currents were down-regulated. 4. About 53 % of IKCa was selectively blocked by iberiotoxin which had no effect on the delayed rectifier K+ currents or the K+ currents of embryonic neurons. 5. The firing properties of neurons isolated from embryos were unchanged by iberiotoxin. However, the toxin greatly increased the frequency of firing in larval neurons. 6. Iberiotoxin extended the duration of ventral root bursts during fictive swimming in larvae at stages 41 and 42 but had no effect at stage 40. The progressive expression of IKCa thus contributed to burst termination. 7. We have found that changes in expression of outward current closely correlate with the maturation of the motor pattern during development. At a time when the motor pattern has a need for a burst-terminating mechanism, the larval neurons express a channel with properties appropriate for such a role.