The vertebrate skull varies widely in shape, accommodating diverse strategies of feeding and predation. The braincase is composed of several flat bones that meet at flexible joints called sutures. Nearly all vertebrates have a prominent ‘coronal’ suture that separates the front and back of the skull. This suture can develop entirely within mesoderm-derived tissue, neural crest-derived tissue, or at the boundary of the two. Recent paleontological findings and genetic insights in non-mammalian model organisms serve to revise fundamental knowledge on the development and evolution of this suture. Growing evidence supports a decoupling of the germ layer origins of the mesenchyme that forms the calvarial bones from inductive signaling that establishes discrete bone centers. Changes in these relationships facilitate skull evolution and may create susceptibility to disease. These concepts provide a general framework for approaching issues of homology in cases where germ layer origins have shifted during evolution.