Development, regeneration, and evolution of feathers

Chih Feng Chen, John Foley, Pin Chi Tang, Ang Li, Ting Xin Jiang, Ping Wu, Randal B. Widelitz, Cheng Ming Chuong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

54 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-195
Number of pages27
JournalAnnual Review of Animal Biosciences
StatePublished - Feb 1 2015


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

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Biotechnology
  • Genetics

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    Chen, C. F., Foley, J., Tang, P. C., Li, A., Jiang, T. X., Wu, P., Widelitz, R. B., & Chuong, C. M. (2015). Development, regeneration, and evolution of feathers. Annual Review of Animal Biosciences, 3, 169-195.