Limb development has long been a model system for studying vertebrate pattern formation. The advent of molecular biology has allowed the identification of some of the key genes that regulate limb morphogenesis. One important class of such genes are the homeobox-containing, or Hox genes. Understanding of the roles these genes play in development additionally provides insights into the evolution of limb pattern. Hox gene expression patterns divide the embryonic limb bud into five sectors along the anterior/posterior axis. The expression of specific Hox genes in each domain specifies the developmental fate of that region. Because there are only five distinct Hox-encoded domains across the limb bud there is a developmental constraint prohibiting the evolution of more than five different types of digits. The expression patterns of Hox genes in modern embryonic limb buds also gives clues to the shape of the ancestral fin field from which the limb evolved, hence elucidating the evolution of the tetrapod limb.