Members of the laboratory of Marie Manceau work to identify the molecules and cell/tissue events underlying pattern formation, with the long-term goal to better understand how these mechanisms shape the diversity seen in natural patterns in the wild. To do so, they use an innovative experimental design making use of birds and the use of natural variation and mathematical modelling as powerful tools to perform developmental studies.


To this end, the laboratory established a vast and unique network of collaborations with local breeders, hobbyists, zoos, and governments (i.e., The Falkland Islands), and created a breeding facility at the Collège de France. The team focuses on the study of the vertebrate skin pattern (i.e., the spatial distribution of colour and skin appendages)


The mechanisms ensuring pattern directionality and reproducibility are poorly understood. We work to uncover how sources of positional signals shape the direction / position of large colour domains in the plumage of Estrildid finches (about 40 species). We use transcriptomics, expression analyses, functional developmental studies, and tissue recombination experiments. 

Color pattern variation in Estrildid finches


Many animals display periodic patterns (i.e., repetitions of a basic motif at intervals of space or time). Numerical simulations can visually reproduce in silico patterns seen in nature, from zebra stripes to leopard spots, but the in vivo control of periodicity establishment remains a mystery. We work to decipher whether in Galliformes and Ratites, periodic feather and colour patterns spontaneously arise during the development of the skin tissue, or are set prior to its formation through early positional cues. We use expression analyses, genetics, mathematical modelling and tissue recombination. 

Striped Pattern variation in Galliformes and Ratites


Feathers are spatially arranged in dotted arrays. While those have been widely studied theoretically, the cell/tissue dynamics involved in the regulation of their size and spacing in vivo remain unknown. Here, we work to identify the morphogenetic dynamics controlling the patterning of local feather geometries across the surface of the avian skin. We use a combination of imaging in a wide range of bird groups, from Galliformes to Estridid finches and Ratites, and mathematical modelling.

Local Feather Pattern variation in Galliformes, Estrildids and Ratites