Selection of recently formed B cells into the follicular or marginal zone (MZ) compartments is proposed to occur by way of proliferative intermediates expressing high levels of CD21/35 and CD23. However, we show that CD21/35high CD23+ splenocytes are not enriched for proliferative cells, and do not contribute substantially to the generation of follicular B cells. Instead, ontogenic relationships, steady-state labeling kinetics, and adoptive transfer experiments suggest that CD21/35high CD23+ splenocytes serve primarily as precursors for MZ B cells, although their developmental potential seems to be broader and is influenced by environmental cues that are associated with lymphopenia. Furthermore, CD21/35high CD23+ splenocytes share several key functional characteristics with MZ B cells, including their capacity to trap T-independent antigen and a heightened proliferative response to LPS. These observations challenge previous models of peripheral B cell maturation, and suggest that MZ B cells develop by way of CD21/35high CD23+ intermediates.