We have investigated in the salamander the possibility that regenerating mechanosensory nerves might prefer the epidermal Merkel cells (their specific targets) that are located
withintheir segmental domain to those within a ‘foreign’ domain. Since regerating nerves cross domain boundaries with no evidence of the marked delay exhibited by intact sprouting nerves, we examined situations in which the regenerating axons of one segmental nerve were effectively in equal competition for denervated skin with those of another segmental nerve. Additionally, we investigated whether there were differences between regenerating axons and intact sprouting axons of the same segmental nerve, in their ability to innervate available skin both inside and outside the parent domain. No preference was detected of any type of nerve, regenerating or intact, for particular skin regions, or for Merkel cells as indicated by the numbers or mechanosensory thresholds of the touch spots that developed in reinnervated skin. Neither was there any indication of displacement of ‘foreign’ nerves from a particular region by appropriate axons. When regenerating and intact (sprouting) axons invaded denervated skin more or less simultaneously, the former appeared to have a slight advantage since a significantly greater proportion of skin was innervated by regenerated fibres. With this one exception, all the results were explained most simply by assuming that the axon that first arrives at a denervated Merkel cell establishes a permanent association with that cell and at the same time causes it to lose its ‘target character’ for other axons.