News of the WeekDevelopmental Biology

Why Chicks Aren't All Thumbs

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Science  21 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5478, pp. 372-373
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5478.372

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A new study on page 438 offers some surprising insights on when and how digits assume their distinctive shapes. Scientists had thought that even before cartilage cells begin to develop into a finger or toe, they already know what shape digit to make. The new findings, however, suggest that digit identity is programmed much later in development, by chemical messengers from the surrounding tissue.