Hensen's node of amniotes, like the Spemann organizer of amphibians, can induce a second body axis when grafted into a host embryo. The avian node, as well as several midline structures originating from it (notochord, floor plate), can also induce digit pattern duplications when grafted into the chick wing bud. We report here that the equivalent of Hensen's node from mouse is an effective inducer of digits in the chick wing bud. Tissues anterior and posterior to the node also evoke pattern duplications, but with a significantly lower efficiency. The finding that the murine node operates in an avian wing bud suggests that the same inducing agent(s) function in both primary and secondary embryonic fields and have been conserved during vertebrate evolution. Digit pattern duplications are also evoked by local administration of all-trans-retinoic acid. This similarity raises the possibility that Hensen's node is a source of retinoic acid. The mouse node is capable of synthesizing retinoic acid from its biosynthetic precursor all-trans-retinol at a substantially higher rate than either anterior or posterior tissues.