Spatial variations in the levels of bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling are a critical determinant of dorsoanterior-ventroposterior pattern in vertebrate embryos. Whereas BMP overexpression abolishes both head and trunk development, known single and double loss-of-function mutations in BMP inhibitors have less dramatic effects. We report that combining mutations in the zebrafish genes bozozok and chordino causes a synergistic loss of head and trunk, whereas most cells express ventro-posterior markers and develop into a tail. Genetic inactivation of BMP signaling fully suppresses these defects. Thus, a remarkably simple genetic mechanism, involving a coinhibition of BMP function by the partially overlapping bozozok and chordino pathways is used to specify vertebrate head and trunk.