During mammalian ontogeny, there is a transition from suckling to the chewing of food. The question was asked: Is suckling a neuromuscular precursor to chewing, or are suckling and chewing independent systems? Electromyograms (EMGs) were recorded in rat pups of ages 6, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 21 days from the superficial masseter, anterior digastric, sternohyoideus, and genioglossus muscles during suckling and chewing. The EMG patterns of the 3 components of suckling behavior (nipple attachment, rhythmic sucking and the stretch response) are distinctive from one another and reflect the musculoskeletal biomechanics of suckling. Chewing EMGs are present by 12 days of age and attain the adult pattern by 18-21 days of age. During nipple attachment, pups exhibit a motor pattern that is similar to that of adult chewing, but other aspects of suckling differ from chewing in some EMG features. Comparison of EMGs between behaviors and between ages allowed interpretation of the degree of contunity of muscular activity across the suckling-to-chewing transition.