THE mechanisms underlying the formation of dorsoventral polarity in the zebrafish Danio rerio are unknown. Here we describe the zebrafish recessive maternal-effect mutation janusm55. The mutant phenotype is a division of the blastoderm along the first cleavage plane into two detached half-sized blastoderms. Partial-axis bifurcation occurs in a subset of mutants. Analysis of goosecoid expression in the mutant embryos indicates that only one organizer region is present in each embryo. Furthermore, the position of this organizer region is random with respect to the first cleavage plane bisecting the two blastoderms. Finally, cell tracing in wild-type embryos demonstrates that there is no strict correlation of the dorsoventral axis with early cleavage planes in zebrafish. These findings support the notion that the establishment of the dorsoventral axis and the first cleavage planes are determined by separate mechanisms in the zebrafish embryo.