In tetrapod phylogeny, the dramatic modifications of the trunk have received less attention than the more obvious evolution of limbs. In somites, several waves of muscle precursors are induced by signals from nearby tissues. In both amniotes and fish, the earliest myogenesis requires secreted signals from the ventral midline carried by Hedgehog (Hh) proteins. To determine if this similarity represents evolutionary homology, we have examined myogenesis in Xenopus laevis, the major species from which insight into vertebrate mesoderm patterning has been derived. Xenopus embryos form two distinct kinds of muscle cells analogous to the superficial slow and medial fast muscle fibres of zebrafish. As in zebrafish, Hh signalling is required for XMyf5 expression and generation of a first wave of early superficial slow muscle fibres in tail somites. Thus, Hh-dependent adaxial myogenesis is the likely ancestral condition of teleosts, amphibia and amniotes. Our evidence suggests that midline-derived cells migrate to the lateral somite surface and generate superficial slow muscle. This cell re-orientation contributes to the apparent rotation of Xenopus somites. Xenopus myogenesis in the trunk differs from that in the tail. In the trunk, the first wave of superficial slow fibres is missing, suggesting that significant adaptation of the ancestral myogenic programme occurred during tetrapod trunk evolution. Although notochord is required for early medial XMyf5 expression, Hh signalling fails to drive these cells to slow myogenesis. Later, both trunk and tail somites develop a second wave of Hh-independent slow fibres. These fibres probably derive from an outer cell layer expressing the myogenic determination genes XMyf5, XMyoD and Pax3 in a pattern reminiscent of amniote dermomyotome. Thus, Xenopus somites have characteristics in common with both fish and amniotes that shed light on the evolution of somite differentiation. We propose a model for the evolutionary adaptation of myogenesis in the transition from fish to tetrapod trunk.