Quantitative experimental evidence is presented for the progress zone theory of limb development. The theory, here formulated mathematically, states that the parts of the limb are specified in proximo-distal succession by an autonomous timing mechanism operating in a ‘progress zone’ of undifferentiated growing mesenchyme under the influence of the apical ectodermal ridge. By the exchange of distal tips between young and old wing-buds, it is shown that there are no long-range morphogenetic signals from proximal to distal tissue. The width of the progress zone is calculated, and it is found autoradiographically that practically all its cells are dividing.

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