The traditional view that all parts of the ribs originate from the sclerotome of the thoracic somites has recently been challenged by an alternative view suggesting that only the proximal rib derives from the sclerotome, while the distal rib arises from regions of the dermomyotome. In view of this continuing controversy and to learn more about the cell interactions during rib morphogenesis, this study aimed to reveal the precise contributions made by somitic cells to the ribs and associated tissues of the thoracic cage. A replication-deficient lacZ-encoding retrovirus was utilized to label cell populations within distinct regions of somites 19-26 in stage 13-18 chick embryos. Analysis of the subsequent contributions made by these cells revealed that the thoracic somites are the sole source of cells for the ribs. More precisely, it is the sclerotome compartment of the somites that contributes cells to both the proximal and distal elements of the ribs, confirming the traditional view of the origin of the ribs. Results also indicate that the precursor cells of the ribs and intercostal muscles are intimately associated within the somite, a relationship that may be essential for proper rib morphogenesis. Finally, the data from this study also show that the distal ribs are largely subject to resegmentation, although cell mixing may occur at the most sternal extremities.