Vegetal plate specification was assessed in S. purpuratus embryos after micromere deletions at the 4th, 5th and 6th cleavages, by assaying expression of the early vegetal plate marker Endo 16, using whole-mount in situ hybridization. After 4th cleavage micromere deletions, the embryos typically displayed weak Endo16 expression in relatively few cells of the lineages that normally constitute the vegetal plate, while after 5th and 6th cleavage micromere deletions the embryos exhibited strong Endo16 expression in larger fractions of cells belonging to those lineages. When all four micromeres were deleted, the embryos were severely delayed in initiating gastrulation and sometimes failed to complete gastrulation. However, if only one micromere was allowed to remain in situ throughout development, the embryos exhibited strong Endo16 expression and gastrulation occurred normally, on schedule with controls. Additional measurements showed that these microsurgical manipulations do not alter cleavage rates or generally disrupt embryo organization. These results constitute direct evidence that the micromeres provide signals required by the macromere lineages for initiation of vegetal plate specification. The specification of the vegetal plate is completed in a normal manner only if micromere signaling is allowed to continue at least to the 6th cleavage stage.