The jaw is one of the earliest innovations in vertebrate history. Several recent findings suggest a scenario for jaw evolution as a progression of changes in pharyngeal developmental mechanisms. The lamprey, an extant jawless vertebrate, constitutes a model for the pre-gnathostome ancestry. Comparing expression patterns of regulatory genes between the gnathostome and lamprey embryos may enable us to get a glimpse of the essential changes that were responsible for the evolution of the jaw. We hypothesize that a specific topographical change of inductive tissue interactions to be described here brought about the jaw as an evolutionary novelty. BioEssays 27:331–338, 2005. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.