The motor ganglion (MG) controls the rhythmic swimming behavior of the Ciona intestinalis tadpole. Despite its cellular simplicity (five pairs of neurons), the MG exhibits conservation of transcription factor expression with the spinal cord of vertebrates. Evidence is presented that the developing MG is patterned by sequential Ephrin/FGF/MAPK and Delta/Notch signaling events. FGF/MAPK attenuation by a localized EphrinAb signal specifies posterior neuronal subtypes, which in turn relay a Delta2/Notch signal that specifies anterior fates. This short-range relay is distinct from the patterning of the vertebrate spinal cord, which is a result of opposing BMP and Shh morphogen gradients. Nonetheless, both mechanisms lead to localized expression of related homeodomain codes for the specification of distinct neuronal subtypes. This MG regulatory network provides a foundation for elucidating the genetic and cellular basis of a model chordate central pattern generator.