N-CAM, the neural cell adhesion molecule, has been found at a number of regions in the early (1-5 days) chicken embryo by fluorescent antibody techniques. These regions appear to be those concerned with induction of the primary developmental axis (neural plate, neural tube, notochord, somites) or those in which later inductive events occur (neural crest cells, optic, otic, and pharyngeal placodes, cardiac mesoderm, mesonephric primordium, limb buds). The staining patterns in the latter group of regions are highly dynamic and transient and are limited to the epithelial components of the placodes and to the precursors of mesonephric tubules. In neural crest cells, N-CAM appears early, disappears during migration of the cells on fibronectin, and reappears at sites where ganglia are formed. In other regions of the nervous system, particularly those related directly to the neural tube, the N-CAM molecule is stained at all stages. The results raise the possibility that adhesion mediated by N-CAM plays a primary role in early embryogenesis as well as in later histogenesis.