Using DiI fluorescent dextrans, we have created fate maps of the neural plate and early neural tube describing the extent of progenitor cell dispersal and the spatial origin of morphologically distinct neuronal cell types along the dorsoventral axis of the developing chick spinal cord. Nonuniform dispersal and mixing of progenitors occur within the early neuroepithelium, with the degree of dispersal being determined by the initial position of the cells along the mediolateral axis of the neural plate. Dispersal is greatest in the midregions of the ventricular epithelium and decreases toward the dorsal and ventral midlines. Phenotypically diverse classes of neurons are born at specific dorsoventral locations in the neural tube. Motor neurons are the most ventral cell type generated followed, at progressively more dorsal positions, by distinct classes of interneurons. Several genes show dorsoventrally restricted patterns of expression within the neural tube and the fate maps were used to investigate the relationship between one of these genes, Pax3, and progenitor cell dispersal and fate. The results indicate that the dorsoventral pattern of Pax3 expression is not maintained by restrictions to cell mixing and are consistent with a role for this transcription factor in specifying the identity of neurons with contralateral descending axons.