SUMMARY The fate of single somites has not been analyzed from a comparative perspective with modern cell-marking methods. Most of what we know is based on work using quail-chick chimeras. Consequently, to what degree cell fate has been conserved despite the anatomical differences among vertebrates is unknown. We have analyzed the cell fate of the cranialmost somites, with the focus on somite two, in the Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum). Somite cells were marked by injection of dextran–fluorescein and detected using immunofluorescence after 2 months of development in paraffin sections. Our data confirm and extend earlier studies based on classical histology in salamanders. We show that somite two contributes to different muscles, skeletal elements, and connective tissues of the head and cranial trunk region. Cells from somites two and three migrate latero-ventrally and contribute to the hypobranchial muscles mm. geniohyoideus and rectus cervicis. We provide evidence that the specific formation of the hypobranchial musculature from ventral processes of the somites might be variable in different classes of vertebrates. We further demonstrate that mm. cucullaris and dilatator laryngis, which were earlier thought to have a branchial origin, arise from somitic material in a manner very similar to the findings in quail-chick chimeras. Our findings indicate that the pattern of somitic derivatives is highly conserved within tetrapods.