The somites of vertebrate embryos give rise to sclerotomes and dermomyotomes. The sclerotomes form the axial skeleton, whereas the dermomyotomes give rise to all trunk muscles and the dermis of the back. The ribs were thought to be ventral processes of the axial skeleton and therefore to be derived from the sclerotomes; however, recently a dermomyotomal origin of the distal rib (the costal shaft) was suggested, with only the proximal parts (head and neck of the rib) being of sclerotomal origin. We have re-investigated the development of the ribs in quail-chick chimeras and carried out three experimental series. (1) Single dermomyotomes and (2) single sclerotomes were grafted homotopically, and (3) the ectoderm overlying the unsegmented paraxial mesoderm was removed in the prospective thoracic region. We found that the cells of the dermomyotome gave rise to epaxial and hypaxial trunk muscles, dermis of the back and endothelial cells, but not to ribs. Cells of the sclerotome formed the axial skeleton and all parts of the ribs. Ablation of the ectoderm, which affects dermomyotome development, results in severe malformations of the ribs, probably due to disturbed interactions between dermomyotome and sclerotome. Our results strongly confirm the traditional view of the sclerotomal origin of the ribs.

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