Mural cells (vascular smooth muscle cells and pericytes) play a critical role in the development of the vasculature, promoting vascular quiescence and long-term vessel stabilization through their interactions with endothelial cells. However, the mechanistic details of how mural cells stabilize vessels are not fully understood. We have examined the emergence and functional role of mural cells investing the dorsal aorta during early development using the zebrafish. Consistent with previous literature, our data suggest that cells ensheathing the dorsal aorta emerge from a sub-population of cells in the adjacent sclerotome. Inhibiting recruitment of mural cells to the dorsal aorta through disruption of pdgfr signaling leads to a reduced vascular basement membrane, which in turn results in enhanced dorsal aorta vessel elasticity and failure to restrict aortic diameter. Our results provide direct in vivo evidence for a functional role for mural cells in patterning and stabilization of the early vasculature through production and maintenance of the vascular basement membrane to prevent abnormal aortic expansion and elasticity.