OBJECTIVE: This study determined how scar formation develops in a non-human primate model of fetal skin repair. SUMMARY BACKGROUND DATA: A transition from healing scarlessly to healing with scar formation characterizes skin repair in rat and sheep fetuses. New knowledge of the regulatory processes occurring in the fetal wound at the initial stages of scar formation may provide insights into the early mechanisms of scar formation. METHODS: Full-thickness wounds were made in fetal rhesus monkey lips from 75 through 114 days gestation (n = 6, term = 165 days). Wounds were harvested at 14 days postwounding and processed for histology (hematoxylin & eosin, Masson's trichrome) as well as immunohistochemistry (human type I or type III collagen). RESULTS: Wounds healed with complete restoration of normal tissue architecture in the 75-day gestation fetus. However in the 85-100 day gestation fetuses, wounds healed with an absence of hair follicles and sebaceous glands, but the dermal collagen pattern remained reticular and similar to that in unwounded dermis. At 107 days, a thin scar was present in the wound, thereby demonstrating a transition to scar formation between 100 and 107 days gestation (early 3rd trimester) in the non-human primate. CONCLUSIONS: In the non-human primate fetus, a transition from scarless repair to adult-type repair with scar formation occurs in the early third trimester. These data provide insight into the transition process; the ontogeny of scar formation is characterized initially by wounds healing without the presence of epidermal appendages but with a normal reticular dermal collagen pattern, which we term the "transition wound."