Maf proteins are basic-leucine zipper transcription factors belonging to the AP1 superfamily. Several developmental processes require Maf proteins yet, the redundancy or complementarity of their respective roles in common processes has been only partially investigated. We present for the first time a complete comparative analysis of maf gene expression patterns in vertebrates. Expression of c-maf, mafB/kreisler, mafA/L-maf, mafF, mafG and mafK was analyzed by whole-mount in situ hybridization within chick embryos and their extraembryonic tissues ranging from embryonic day (E) 1 to 7. We carefully examined the extent of overlap between distinct maf genes and report that the developing lens, kidney, pancreas and apoptotic zones of limb buds show sustained co-expression of large maf genes. Small maf genes also exhibit overlap, for example in the dermomyotome. We also describe so far unidentified sites of maf gene expression. mafA is found in the developing neural tube and dorsal root ganglia. c-maf hybridization is detected in the neuroretina, the notochord and the endothelium of extraembryonic blood vessels.