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Neuromesodermal progenitors (NMps) contribute to both the elongating spinal cord and the adjacent paraxial mesoderm. It has been assumed that these cells arise as a result of patterning of the anterior neural plate. However, as the molecular mechanisms that specify NMps in vivo are uncovered, and as protocols for generating these bipotent cells from mouse and human pluripotent stem cells in vitro are established, the emerging data suggest that this view needs to be revised. Here, we review the characteristics, regulation, in vitro derivation and in vivo induction of NMps. We propose that these cells arise within primitive streak-associated epiblast via a mechanism that is separable from that which establishes neural fate in the anterior epiblast.We thus argue for the existence of two distinct routes for making central nervous system progenitors.