The prevailing model of somitogenesis supposes that the presomitic mesoderm is segmented into somites by a clock and wavefront mechanism. During segmentation, mesenchymal cells undergo compaction, followed by a detachment of the presumptive somite from the rest of the presomitic mesoderm and the subsequent morphological changes leading to rounded somites. We investigate the possibility that minimization of tissue surface tension drives the somite sculpting processes. Given the time in which somite formation occurs and the high bulk viscosities of tissues, we find that only small changes in shape and form of tissue typically occur through cell movement driven by tissue surface tension. This is particularly true for somitogenesis in the zebrafish. Hence it is unlikely that such processes are the sole and major driving force behind somite formation. We propose a simple chemotactic mechanism that together with heightened adhesion can account for the morphological changes in the time allotted for somite formation. (c) 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.