Developing taste buds in the anterior mandibular floor of perihatching chicks were studied by high voltage electron microscopic autoradiography in order to identify proliferating gemmal cell types. Montaged profiles of 29 taste buds in five cases euthanized between embryonic day 21 and posthatching day 2 were analyzed after a single [3H]thymidine injection administered on embryonic day 16, 17 or 18. Results showed that dark cells comprised 55% of identified (n = 900 cells) and 62% of labeled (n = 568 cells) gemmal cells as compared with light, intermediate, basal or perigemmal bud cells. Dark cells had both a greater (P < 0.05) number of labeled cells and a greater amount of label (grains/nucleus) than the other four bud cell types, irrespective of injection day. The nuclear area (μm2) of dark cells was not significantly larger (P > 0.05) than that of the other gemmal cell types and therefore cannot account for the greater amount of label in the dark cells. Interestingly, only dark cells showed a positive correlation (P < 0.003) between amount of label and nuclear area. Results suggest that, during the perihatching period of robust cell proliferation, dividing dark cells may give rise primarily, but not exclusively, to dark cell progeny.