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Annu Rev Anim Biosci. 2015;3:169-95. doi: 10.1146/annurev-animal-022513-114127. Epub 2014 Nov 3.

Development, regeneration, and evolution of feathers.

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Center for the Integrative and Evolutionary Galliformes Genomics, Taichung, Taiwan.


The feather is a complex ectodermal organ with hierarchical branching patterns. It provides functions in endothermy, communication, and flight. Studies of feather growth, cycling, and health are of fundamental importance to avian biology and poultry science. In addition, feathers are an excellent model for morphogenesis studies because of their accessibility, and their distinct patterns can be used to assay the roles of specific molecular pathways. Here we review the progress in aspects of development, regeneration, and evolution during the past three decades. We cover the development of feather buds in chicken embryos, regenerative cycling of feather follicle stem cells, formation of barb branching patterns, emergence of intrafeather pigmentation patterns, interplay of hormones and feather growth, and the genetic identification of several feather variants. The discovery of feathered dinosaurs redefines the relationship between feathers and birds. Inspiration from biomaterials and flight research further fuels biomimetic potential of feathers as a multidisciplinary research focal point.


Aves; bird; dinosaurs; endocrinology; poultry science; stem cells

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