Lampreys and hagfish, which together are known as the cyclostomes or ‘agnathans’, are the only surviving lineages of jawless fish. They diverged early in vertebrate evolution, before the origin of the hinged jaws that are characteristic of gnathostome (jawed) vertebrates and before the evolution of paired appendages. However, they do share numerous characteristics with jawed vertebrates. Studies of cyclostome development can thus help us to understand when, and how, key aspects of the vertebrate body evolved. Here, we summarise the development of cyclostomes, highlighting the key species studied and experimental methods available. We then discuss how studies of cyclostomes have provided important insight into the evolution of fins, jaws, skeleton and neural crest.