Guppy (Lebistes reticulatus) embryos pass through a distinct sequence of motor behaviors that leads to swimming capability during the course of their development. We have characterized these activities in order of appearance, with several corresponding morphological features, as belonging to the coil stage, tail‐twitch stage, S‐movement stage, and swimming stage. A primary feature of development was an increase in the amount of activity per unit of time over these four stages. The developmental pattern of motility was not interrupted by spinal transection until the onset of swimming, implying that supraspinal information is not required for the occurrence of the primitive behaviors that precede swimming. Elimination of swimming by spinal transection did not elicit a reversion to less complex activities, suggesting that once the cerebral control for swimming is developed, it represents a hardwired system not behaviorally reducible to antecedent components.