The differentiation of neural crest and ectodermal placodes was examined in the axolotl in order to clarify the contribution of these tissues to the formation of the sensory ganglia of the branchiomeric and lateral line cranial nerves in salamanders. The most rostral branchiomeric nerves, the profundal and trigeminal nerves, appear to arise solely from an ectodermal placode and from neural crest, respectively. The sensory ganglia of the more caudal branchiomeric nerves —the facial, glossopharyngeal, and vagal nerves —are formed by a medial component that differentiates from the dorsomedial surface of migrating bands of neural crest associated with each of the developing branchial arches and with one or more lateral components that arise from epibranchial placodes located immediately dorsal and caudal to each pharyngeal pouch. Neuroblasts destined to form these sensory ganglia begin to differentiate from the epibranchial placodes as early as stage 26, whereas neural crest-derived neuroblasts can be recognized by stage 30. Centrally directed neurites of both groups of neuroblasts enter the medulla by stage 34, and their peripherally directed neurites form recognizable rami by stage 35. Five cranial lateral line nerves, in addition to the octaval nerve, can be recognized in axolotls. Each of these nerves arises from a separate dorsolateral placode that initially gives rise to the neuroblasts of a sensory ganglion whose peripheral neurites innervate sensory receptors subsequently formed from each placode. The time course of the differentiation of these nerves and receptors is comparable to that of the branchiomeric nerves. The possible roles of rhombomeres and their associated regulatory genes and pharyngeal pouches in the induction and specification of neural crest and ectodermal placodes are explored.