We have examined the zebrafish embryo to ascertain the location of endocardial and myocardial progenitors prior to gastrulation, in an attempt to define the earliest stages of cardiac patterning. Currently there is uncertainty as to the spatial and lineage relationship of the progenitors for these two phenotypically distinct cell types that form the two concentric layers of the primitive heart tube. By single-cell injection and tracking, we distinguish a region in the early and midblastula which has the properties of a heart field, in that it defines a zone of cardiac progenitors within which there is a spatial gradient of propensity to generate heart cells, and which regulates, in the sense of adapting to the transplantation of pluripotential cells. This zone extends from the future ventral axis dorsally along the margin, with cardiogenic propensity tapering off laterally and dorsally. Myocardial progenitors are spread throughout this region, but endocardial precursors are restricted to the ventral marginal region. The cardiovascular progeny of the ventral cells include, in addition to endocardium and myocardium, cells in the endothelium and blood.