We describe the isolation of zebrafish Fgf8 and its expression during gastrulation, somitogenesis, fin bud and early brain development. By demonstrating genetic linkage and by analysing the structure of the Fgf8 gene, we show that acerebellar is a zebrafish Fgf8 mutation that may inactivate Fgf8 function. Homozygous acerebellar embryos lack a cerebellum and the midbrain-hindbrain boundary organizer. Fgf8 function is required to maintain, but not initiate, expression of Pax2.1 and other marker genes in this area. We show that Fgf8 and Pax2.1 are activated in adjacent domains that only later become overlapping, and activation of Fgf8 occurs normally in no isthmus embryos that are mutant for Pax2.1. These findings suggest that multiple signaling pathways are independently activated in the midbrain-hindbrain boundary primordium during gastrulation, and that Fgf8 functions later during somitogenesis to polarize the midbrain. Fgf8 is also expressed in a dorsoventral gradient during gastrulation and ectopically expressed Fgf8 can dorsalize embryos. Nevertheless, acerebellar mutants show only mild dorsoventral patterning defects. Also, in spite of the prominent role suggested for Fgf8 in limb development, the pectoral fins are largely unaffected in the mutants. Fgf8 is therefore required in development of several important signaling centers in the zebrafish embryo, but may be redundant or dispensable for others.