The topography of the ectoderm was examined by scanning electron microscopy during neurulation in hamster and mouse embryos. Stages from the appearance of the neural folds to closure of the posterior neuropore were studied. Progressive development of a zone of altered cellular morphology was observed along the crests of the neural folds. This zone evolved from and abrupt transition between surface and neural regions of the ectoderm to a narrow band of flattened cells which exhibited numerous membranous “ruffles” in the mouse, or blebs and presumably degenerating cells in the hamster, immediately prior to contact between the folds. These alterations were more prominent along the anterior than the posterior portions of the folds. Contact of the folds occurred first between the flattened cells with subsequent union of the surface cells. Stages of neural crest cell formation were observed subjacent to the zone of alterations in histological sections. It is suggested that the observed surface alterations may reflect changes in the membrane properties of the altered cells which are correlated with both neural crest formation and initial adhesion between the folds.