Dactylaplasia, or Dac, was recently mapped to the distal portion of mouse chromosome 19 and shown to be inherited as an autosomal semi-dominant trait characterized by missing central digital rays. The most common locus for human split hand split foot malformation, also typically characterized by missing central digital rays, is 10q25, a region of synteny to the Dac locus. The Dac mouse appears to be an ideal genotypic and phenotypic model for this human malformation syndrome. Several genes lie in this region of synteny, however, only Fibroblast Growth Factor 8, or Fgf-8, has been implicated to have a role in limb development. We demonstrate that the developmental mechanism underlying loss of central rays in Dac limbs is dramatic cell death of the apical ectodermal ridge, or AER. This cell death pattern is apparent in E10.5-11.5 Dac limb buds stained with the supravital dye Nile Blue Sulfate. We demonstrate that Fgf8 expression in wild type limbs colocalizes spatially and temporally with AER cell death in Dac limbs. Furthermore, in our mapping panel, there is an absence of recombinants between Fgf-8 and the Dac locus in 133 backcross progeny with a median linkage estimate of approximately 0.5 cM. Thus, our results demonstrate that cell death of the AER in Dac limbs silences the role of the AER as key regulator of limb outgrowth, and that Fgf-8 is a strong candidate for the cause of the Dac phenotype.