The chicken inner ear is a remarkably complex structure consisting of eight morphologically distinct sensory organs. Unraveling how these sensory organs are specified during development is key to understanding how such a complex structure is generated. Previously, we have shown that each sensory organ in the chicken inner ear arises independently in the rudimentary otocyst based on Bone morphogenetic protein 4 (Bmp4) expression. Here, we compare the expression of Bmp4 with two other putative sensory organ markers, Lunatic Fringe (L-fng) and chicken Serrate1 (Ser1), both of which are components of the Notch signaling pathway. L-fng and Ser1 expression domains were asymmetrically distributed in the otic cup. At this early stage, expression of L-fng is similar to Delta1 (Dl1), in an anteroventral domain apparently corresponding to the neurogenic region, while Ser1 is expressed at both the anterior and posterior poles. By the otocyst stage, the expression of both L-fng and Ser1 largely coincided in the medial region. All presumptive sensory organs, as identified by Bmp4 expression, arose within the broad L-fng- and Ser1-positive domain, indicating the existence of a sensory-competent region in the rudimentary otocyst. In addition, there is a qualitative difference in the levels of expression between L-fng and Ser1 such that L-fng expression was stronger in the ventral anterior, whereas Ser1 was stronger in the dorsal posterior region of this broad domain. This early difference in expression may presage the differences among sensory organs as they arise from this sensory competent zone. J. Comp. Neurol. 424:509–520, 2000. Published 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.