Cranial neural crest cells are a multipotent, migratory population that generates most of the cartilage, bone, connective tissue and peripheral nervous system in the vertebrate head. Proper neural crest cell patterning is essential for normal craniofacial morphogenesis and is highly conserved among vertebrates. Neural crest cell patterning is intimately connected to the early segmentation of the neural tube, such that neural crest cells migrate in discrete segregated streams. Recent advances in live embryo imaging have begun to reveal the complex behaviour of neural crest cells which involve intricate cell-cell and cell-environment interactions. Despite the overall similarity in neural crest cell migration between distinct vertebrates species there are important mechanistic differences. Apoptosis for example, is important for neural crest cell patterning in chick embryos but not in mouse, frog or fish embryos. In this paper we highlight the potential evolutionary significance of such interspecies differences in jaw development and evolution. Developmental Dynamics 229:14–29, 2004. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.