The fish Astyanax mexicanus comes in two forms: the normal surface-dwelling and the blind depigmented cave-adapted morphs. Comparing the development of their basal forebrain, we found quantitative differences in numbers of cells in specific clusters for six out of nine studied neuropeptidergic cell types. Investigating the origins of these differences, we showed that early Shh and Fgf signaling impact on the development of NPY and Hypocretin clusters, via effect on Lhx7 and Lhx9 transcription factors, respectively. Finally, we demonstrated that such neurodevelopmental evolution underlies behavioral evolution, linking a higher number of Hypocretin cells with hyperactivity in cavefish. Early embryonic modifications in signaling/patterning at neural plate stage therefore impact neuronal development and later larval behavior, bridging developmental evolution of a neuronal system and the adaptive behavior it governs. This work uncovers novel variations underlying the evolution and adaptation of cavefish to their extreme environment.