Vertebrate and insect (Drosophila) hearts look and function quite differently from each other. Nevertheless, during embryogenesis their mesodermal origin and initial assembly into a linear heart tube are comparable in many respects. In the past few years, numerous gene functions have been identified that are utilized by both vertebrates and Drosophila for the specification and differentiation of the heart progenitor cells. These studies have begun with the discovery of the homeobox gene tinman in Drosophila and its vertebrate counterparts. By now, there is also evidence that MEF2 transcription factors and TGF-beta signaling have cardiogenic functions in both these systems. Perhaps in a few years, the GATA and HAND transcription factors and Wnt signaling, which currently only have a demonstrated cardiogenic function in one of the systems, may also be part of this group. One of the pressing but still wide open questions is if the spectrum of targets for these transcription factors and signaling pathways is also conserved.