Chicken as a Developmental Model

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The development of a complex organism from a single cell, the fertilised egg, has fascinated people for centuries. Embryo development is highly reproducible and exquisitely regulated. How is it that all tissues and organs form in the right places and at the right time? How is the development of different organ systems coordinated, so that they all fit together correctly at the end? It is challenging to study development, because many embryos are small or inaccessible. The chick embryo is a popular model system with many experimental advantages, which include classic ‘cut and paste’ experiments and mechanistic gene function analyses. The combination of micromanipulations with gain- or loss-of-function is particularly powerful. The recent development of transgenic lines and advanced imaging techniques ensure that the chicken remains an attractive model system, which will continue to make major contributions to our understanding of molecular and cellular mechanisms controlling developmental processes. Key ConceptsKey Concepts * The chick embryo is easy to access and observe and is therefore an attractive model to study developmental processes. * In the early stages, chick embryo morphology is very similar to human, both are amniotes and their development is very similar. * The chicken and human genomes share considerable homology. * Classic embryological manipulations, such as tissue ablations and tissue grafts, provide information about the contribution of particular cell populations to various organs. These experiments have also told us how cells and tissues influence each other in their developmental decisions. * The molecular and cellular basis for many developmental processes and phenomena were first described in the chick, including limb patterning, neural crest migration, dorso-ventral neural tube patterning, blood vessel formation, somite segmentation and left–right asymmetry. * Experiments in chicken, which examine the function of genes, have helped elucidate the underlying mechanisms of human genetic diseases and provide a basis for testing novel therapies. * Time-lapse video microscopy can be used to image live chick embryos, either in ovo or ex ovo using embryo culture. * We can use chick embryos to visualise complex processes, including cell migration, cell–cell communication, cell differentiation and tissue morphogenesis, in an amniote system.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationeLS
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2015


  • chick
  • quail
  • vertebrate
  • tissue graft
  • microsurgery
  • dye injection
  • electroporation
  • embryo culture
  • live imaging

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