The molecular mechanisms underlying pigmentation patterns in animals is to a large extent an unresolved mystery in biology. For example, compared with mammals, birds show a stunning diversity in pigmentation patterns. This study advances the knowledge concerning the mechanisms creating periodic pigmentation patterns in individual feathers. We show that a mutation upstream of
GJA5encoding a gap-junction protein is causing the Melanotic phenotype in domestic chickens. Melanoticaffects within-feather pigmentation patterns by enhancing the contrast between dark- and light-colored regions in the feather. The result implies that cell–cell communications between melanocytes and other cells in the feather follicle play a critical role for pattern formation.