The ability of the anterior apical ectodermal ridge to promote outgrowth in the chick wing bud when disconnected from posterior apical ridge was examined by rotating the posterior portion of the stage-19/20 to stage-21 wing bud around its anteroposterior axis. This permitted contact between the anterior and posterior mesoderm, without removing wing bud tissue. In a small but significant number of cases (10/54), anterior structures (digit 2) formed spatially isolated from posterior structures (digits 3 and 4). Thus, continuity with posterior ridge is not a prerequisite for anterior-ridge function in the wing bud. Nevertheless, posterior-ridge removal does result in anterior limb truncation. To investigate events leading to anterior truncation, we examined cell death patterns in the wing bud following posterior-ridge removal. We observed an abnormal area of necrosis along the posterior border of the wing bud at 6–12 h following posterior-ridge removal. This was followed by necrosis in the distal, anterior mesoderm at 48 h postoperatively and subsequent anterior truncation. Clearly, healthy posterior limb bud mesoderm is needed for anterior limb bud survival and development. We propose that anterior truncation is the direct result of anterior mesodermal cell death and that this may not be related to positional specification of anterior cells. In our view, cell death of anterior mesoderm, after posterior mesoderm removal, should not be used as evidence for a role in position specification by the polarizing zone during the limb bud stages of development. We suggest that the posterior mesoderm that maintains the anterior mesoderm need not be restricted to the mapped polarizing zone, but is more extensively distributed in the limb bud.