Bone morphogenetic proteins (BMPs) are key mediators of dorsoventral patterning in vertebrates and are required for the induction of ventral fates in fish and frogs. A widely accepted model of dorsoventral patterning postulates that a morphogenetic BMP activity gradient patterns cell fates along the dorsoventral axis. Recent work in zebrafish suggests that the role of BMP signaling changes over time, with BMPs required for global dorsoventral patterning during early gastrulation and for tail patterning during late gastrulation and early somitogenesis. Key questions remain about the late phase, including which BMP ligands are required and how the functions of BMPs differ during the early and late gastrula stages. In a screen for dominant enhancers of mutations in the homeobox genes vox and vent, which function in parallel to bmp signaling, we identified an insertion mutation in bmp4. We then performed a reverse genetic screen to isolate a null allele of bmp4. We report the characterization of these two alleles and demonstrate that BMP4 is required during the later phase of BMP signaling for the specification of ventroposterior cell fates. Our results indicate that different bmp genes are essential at different stages. In addition, we present genetic evidence supporting a role for a morphogenetic BMP gradient in establishing mesodermal fates during the later phase of BMP signaling.