Centrioles are vital cellular structures that form centrosomes and cilia. The formation and function of cilia depends on a set of centriole’s distal appendages. In this study, we use correlative super resolution and electron microscopy to precisely determine where distal appendage proteins localize in relation to the centriole microtubules and appendage electron densities. Here we characterize a novel distal appendage protein ANKRD26 and detail, in high resolution, the initial steps of distal appendage assembly. We further show that distal appendages undergo a dramatic ultra-structural reorganization before mitosis, during which they temporarily lose outer components, while inner components maintain a nine-fold organization. Finally, using electron tomography we reveal that mammalian distal appendages associate with two centriole microtubule triplets via an elaborate filamentous base and that they appear as almost radial finger-like protrusions. Our findings challenge the traditional portrayal of mammalian distal appendage as a pinwheel-like structure that is maintained throughout mitosis.