In the avian heart the right and left atrioventricular (AV) valves not only exhibit their own special anatomical characteristics, but they also are in close proximity to the conduction system. The right AV valve is a single, spiral plane of myocardium, in remarkable contrast to the fibrous structure characteristic of the mammalian tricuspid valve. A ring of Purkinje tissue encircles the avian right AV orifice and connects to the muscular valve. The chicken has no crista supraventricularis, its right AV valve serving that function as well as opening and closing the right AV orifice. The left AV valve consists of three leaflets instead of the two typical of mammalian hearts. Its anterior and posterior leaflets are small; its large aortic (medial) leaflet merges with the bases of both the left and noncoronary cusps of the aortic valve by fibrous tissue, resembling that of the mammalian heart. However, unlike in mammals, there is a slim cylinder of continuous myocardium coursing parallel to this fibrous junction. This unusual arc of myocardium in the chicken serves to complete an entire subaortic ring of myocardium and is thus potentially capable of constricting the outflow tract of the chicken's left ventricle. The middle bundle branch connects with both the muscle arch and the AV Purkinje ring. Thus the myocardium in or near both AV valves (and the left ventricular outflow tract) in the chicken heart is so arranged that it may receive direct early activation from the conduction system. ©1993 Wiley-Liss, Inc.