The embryos of certain teleost species are transparent and cell behaviour within the intact embryo can be observed and recorded using Nomarski microscopy coupled with time-lapse video recording or time-lapse cine filming. In this report we review some of our recent analyses of cell behaviour patterns underlying key morphogenetic events. (1) Contact-guided cell migration through a structurally ordered extracellular matrix during fin development; (2) movement of tissue layers during epibolic overgrowth; and (3) cell ‘social’ behaviour during the establishment of the body axis (i.e. notochord formation and somitogenesis).
These results, on cell behaviour correlated with normal morphogenesis, provide a baseline for further work in which hypotheses concerning subcellular and molecular controls of cell behaviour can be tested by experimental perturbation in vivo.