SUMMARY In adult echinoderms, the nervous system includes the ectoneural and hyponeural subsystems. The former has been believed to develop from the ectoderm, whereas the latter is considered to be mesodermal in origin. However, this view has not been substantially supported by embryological examinations. Our study deals with the developmental origin of the nervous system in the direct-developing sea cucumber Eupentacta fraudatrix. The rudiment of the adult nervous system develops from ectodermally derived cells, which ingress into the primary body cavity from the floor of the vestibule. At the earliest stages, only the rudiment of the ectoneural nerve ring is laid down. The radial nerve cords and tentacular nerves grow out from this subcutaneous rudiment. The ectoneural cords do not develop simultaneously but make their appearance in the following order: unpaired mid-ventral cord, paired dorsal lateral cords, and ventral lateral cords. These transitional developmental stages probably recapitulate the evolution of the echinoderm body plan. The holothurian hyponeural subsystem, as other regions of the metazoan nervous system, has an ectodermal origin. It originally appears as a narrow band of tissue, which bulges out of the basal region of the ectoneural neuroepithelium. Our data combined with those of other workers strongly suggest that the adult nervous tissue in echinoderms develops separately from the superficial larval system of ciliary nerves. Therefore, our data are neither in strict accordance with Garstang's hypothesis nor do they allow to refuse it. Nevertheless, in addition to ciliary bands, other areas of neurogenetic epidermis must be taken into account.