Germband retraction in Drosophila melanogaster, like most embryonic morphogenetic events in this organism and in higher eukaryotes, is not well understood. We have taken several approaches to study the relationships between previously identified mutations (u-shaped, serpent, hindsight and tailup) that selectively cause germband retraction defects in homozygous embryos, and a more pleiotropically acting locus, DER/faint little ball. Our observations from genetic, immunohistochemical, and embryo culture experiments suggest that the former four loci are elements of at least two parallel and partially redundant cellular pathways that affect germband retraction by acting in amnioserosal development or maintenance. An additional discrete and unique pathway, represented by DER/faint little ball, is likely to function in the germband itself. While the role of the amnioserosa during germband retraction appears to be permissive, the action of DER in the germband may be mediated by the cytoskeleton.