Fibroblast growth factors (FGFs) mediate many cell-to-cell signaling events during early development. Nou-darake (ndk), a gene encoding an FGF receptor (FGFR)-like molecule, was found to be highly and specifically expressed in the head region of the planarian Dugesia japonica, and its functional analyses provided strong molecular evidence for the existence of a brain-inducing circuit based on the FGF signaling pathway. To analyze the role of ndk during vertebrate development, we isolated the Xenopus ortholog of ndk, the vertebrate FGFR-like 1 gene (XFGFRL1). Expression of XFGFRL1/Xndk was first detected in the anterior region at the late gastrula stage and dramatically increased at the early neurula stage in an overall anterior mesendodermal region, including the prechordal plate, paraxial mesoderm, anterior endoderm, and archenteron roof. This anterior expression pattern resembles that of ndk in planarians, suggesting that the expression of FGFRL1/ndk is conserved in evolution between these two distantly diverged organisms. During the tail bud stages, XFGFRL1/Xndk expression was detected in multiple regions, including the forebrain, eyes, midbrain–hindbrain boundary, otic vesicles, visceral arches, and somites. In many of these regions, XFGFRL1/Xndk was coexpressed with XFGF8, indicating that XFGFRL1/Xndk is a member of the XFGF8 synexpression group, which includes sprouty, sef, and isthmin. Developmental Dynamics 230:700–707, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.