The mechanisms that lead to the production of sensory hair cells during regeneration have been investigated by using 2 different procedures to ablate preexisting hair cells in individual neuromast sensory epithelia of the lateral line in the tails of salamanders, then monitoring the responses of surviving cells. In one series of experiments, fluorescent excitation was used to cause the phototoxic death of hair cells that selectively take up the pyridinium dye DASPEI. In the other experiments, the ultraviolet output of a pulsed neodymium-YAG laser was focused to a microbeam through a quartz objective lens in epi- illumination mode and used to selectively kill individual unlabeled hair cells while the cells were simultaneously imaged by transmitted light DIC microscopy. Through observation of the treated neuromasts in vivo, these experiments demonstrated that mature sensory epithelia that have been completely depleted of hair cells can still generate new hair cells. Preexisting hair cells are not necessary for regeneration. Immediately after the ablations the only resident cells in the sensory epithelia were supporting cells. These cells were observed to divide at rates that were increased over control values, and eventually those cell divisions gave rise to progeny that differentiated as hair cells, replacing those that had been killed. Macrophages were active in these epithelia, and their phagocytic activity had a significant influence on the standing population of cells. The first new hair cells appeared 3–5 d after the treatments, and additional hair cells usually appeared every 1–2 d for at least 2 weeks. We conclude that the fate of the progeny produced by supporting cell divisions is plastic to a degree, in that these progeny can differentiate either as supporting cells or as hair cells in epithelia where hair cells are missing or depleted.