Expression of Fgf-8, Bmp-4, Bmp-7, and shh in the branchial arches of the chick embryo is examined by in situ hybridization. Fgf-8 expression is initially broad and diffuse, becoming more tightly restricted, particularly in the epithelium of the posterior ectodermal margin (PEM) of the 2nd branchial arch. Bmp-7 transcripts, first seen at stage 12 in discrete regions corresponding to the developing branchial clefts, are later detected in both clefts and arches, including the PEM of the 2nd arch while Bmp-4 transcripts are detected at stage 18 in the distal tips of the arches. Shh expression remains localized, overlapping with both Bmp-7 and Fgf-8 in the PEM of the 2nd arch at stages 16 and 18. Based on these data, a model is proposed for the role of these signalling molecules in branchial arch development.