Fast and slow contracting fibers in neonatal mammalian skeletal muscle are each innervated in a highly specific manner by motor neurons of the corresponding type, even at an age when polyinnervation is widespread. Chemospecific recognition is a possible mechanism by which this pattern of innervation could be established. We have investigated this possibility by studying the degree of specificity during reinnervation of rabbit soleus muscle following nerve crush on Postnatal Day 1 or 4. We assayed fiber type composition by measuring the twitch rise times of motor units within 2 days of the onset of functional reinnervation (5-6 days after nerve crush). In contrast to the broad, bimodal distribution of single motor unit twitch rise times seen in normal muscles, motor units in reinnervated muscles yielded a narrower, unimodal distribution of rise times. Rise times of reinnervated units were intermediate to those of normal fast and slow units, suggesting that reinnervated units were composed of a mixture of fast and slow contracting fibers. An alternative possibility, that specific reinnervation was masked by contractile dedifferentiation of muscle fibers, was examined by maintaining a transmission blockade induced by botulinum toxin poisoning for an equivalent interval. Twitch rise times of treated motor units exhibited the distinctly bimodal distribution characteristic of normal muscles, suggesting that muscle fibers can retain contractile diversity during a transient period of denervation. We carried out computer simulations to estimate the amount of rise time diversity induced by varying degrees of specificity during reinnervation. Based on this analysis, we conclude that there is little if any selective reinnervation of muscle fiber types at the ages studied.