Somites give rise to the vertebral column and segmented musculature of adult vertebrates. The cell movements that position cells within somites along the anteroposterior and dorsoventral axes are not well understood. Using a fate mapping approach, we show that at the onset of Xenopus laevis gastrulation, mesoderm cells undergo distinct cell movements to form myotome fibers positioned in discrete locations within somites and along the anteroposterior axis. We show that the distribution of presomitic cells along the anteroposterior axis is influenced by convergent and extension movements of the notochord. Heterochronic and heterotopic transplantations between presomitic gastrula and early tail bud stages show that these cells are interchangeable and can form myotome fibers in locations determined by the host embryo. However, additional transplantation experiments revealed differences in the competency of presomitic cells to form myotome fibers, suggesting that maturation within the tail bud presomitic mesoderm is required for myotome fiber differentiation. Developmental Dynamics 239:1162–1177, 2010.© 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.