Somites are segments of paraxial mesoderm that give rise to a multitude of tissues in the vertebrate embryo. Many decades of intensive research have provided a wealth of data on the complex molecular interactions leading to the formation of various somitic derivatives. In this review, we focus on the crucial role of the somites in building the body wall and limbs of amniote embryos. We give an overview on the current knowledge on the specification and differentiation of somitic cell lineages leading to the development of the vertebral column, skeletal muscle, connective tissue, meninges, and vessel endothelium, and highlight the importance of the somites in establishing the metameric pattern of the vertebrate body. Developmental Dynamics 236:2382–2396, 2007. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.