In vertebrates, hematopoietic and vascular progenitors develop from ventral mesoderm. The first primitive wave of hematopoiesis yields embryonic red blood cells, whereas progenitor cells of subsequent definitive waves form all hematopoietic cell lineages. In this report we examine the development of hematopoietic and vasculogenic cells in normal zebrafish and characterize defects in cloche and spadetail mutant embryos. The zebrafish homologs of lmo2, c-myb, fli1, flk1, and flt4 have been cloned and characterized in this study. Expression of these genes identifies embryonic regions that contain hematopoietic and vascular progenitor cells. The expression of c-myb also identifies definitive hematopoietic cells in the ventral wall of the dorsal aorta. Analysis of b316 mutant embryos that carry a deletion of the c-myb gene demonstrates that c-myb is not required for primitive erythropoiesis in zebrafish even though it is expressed in these cells. Both cloche and spadetail mutant embryos have defects in primitive hematopoiesis and definitive hematopoiesis. The cloche mutants also have significant decreases in vascular gene expression, whereas spadetail mutants expressed normal levels of these genes. These studies demonstrate that the molecular mechanisms that regulate hematopoiesis and vasculogenesis have been conserved throughout vertebrate evolution and the clo and spt genes are key regulators of these programs.