The bone morphogenetic protein (Bmp) signalling pathway is central to vertebrate neural and epidermal development. The antagonism of Bmp signals has been proposed to induce neural fate in the ectoderm, but this model does not explain all that is known about neural induction. On p. 3581, Kudoh et al. report that fibroblast growth factor (Fgf) and Bmp signalling combine to pattern zebrafish gastrula into prospective neural and epidermal domains. Their fate-mapping and genetic experiments show it is Fgf activity, not Bmp antagonism, that initiates the development of the prospective vegetal neural tissue that contributes to the trunk and tail central nervous system. Bmp activity in these same cells promotes the adoption of a caudal neural fate. Given that high levels of Bmp signalling in the animal ectoderm induce an epidermal fate, Bmp activity during gastrulation seems to have different roles in the animal and vegetal ectoderm.