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Zoological Lett. 2018 Jan 16;4:2. doi: 10.1186/s40851-017-0085-4. eCollection 2018.

Flight feather development: its early specialization during embryogenesis.

Author information

1
1Department of Developmental Biology and Neurosciences, Graduate School of Life Sciences, Tohoku University, Sendai, 980-8578 Japan.
2
2Mammalian Genetics Laboratory, Genetic Strains Research Center, National Institute of Genetics, 1111 Yata, Mishima, Shizuoka, 411-8540 Japan.

Abstract

Background:

Flight feathers, a type of feather that is unique to extant/extinct birds and some non-avian dinosaurs, are the most evolutionally advanced type of feather. In general, feather types are formed in the second or later generation of feathers at the first and following molting, and the first molting begins at around two weeks post hatching in chicken. However, it has been stated in some previous reports that the first molting from the natal down feathers to the flight feathers is much earlier than that for other feather types, suggesting that flight feather formation starts as an embryonic event. The aim of this study was to determine the inception of flight feather morphogenesis and to identify embryological processes specific to flight feathers in contrast to those of down feathers.

Results:

We found that the second generation of feather that shows a flight feather-type arrangement has already started developing by chick embryonic day 18, deep in the skin of the flight feather-forming region. This was confirmed by shh gene expression that shows barb pattern, and the expression pattern revealed that the second generation of feather development in the flight feather-forming region seems to start by embryonic day 14. The first stage at which we detected a specific morphology of the feather bud in the flight feather-forming region was embryonic day 11, when internal invagination of the feather bud starts, while the external morphology of the feather bud is radial down-type.

Conclusion:

The morphogenesis for the flight feather, the most advanced type of feather, has been drastically modified from the beginning of feather morphogenesis, suggesting that early modification of the embryonic morphogenetic process may have played a crucial role in the morphological evolution of this key innovation. Co-optation of molecular cues for axial morphogenesis in limb skeletal development may be able to modify morphogenesis of the feather bud, giving rise to flight feather-specific morphogenesis of traits.

KEYWORDS:

Chick embryo; Feather development; Flight feather; Invagination

Conflict of interest statement

All animal experiments were properly performed in accordance with guidelines provided by Tohoku University.Not applicable.The authors declare that they have no competing interests.Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

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