The functions of the 11 classes of exposed chemosensory neurons of C. elegans were tested by killing cells with a laser microbeam. One pair of neurons, the ASE neurons, is uniquely important for chemotaxis: killing the ASE neurons greatly reduced chemotaxis to cAMP, biotin, Cl-, and Na+. Additional chemosensory function is distributed among several other cell types. Thus, 3 pairs of chemosensory neurons (ADF, ASG, and ASI) contribute to a residual response to cAMP, biotin, Cl-, and Na+ after ASE is killed. Chemotaxis to lysine similarly depends on the partly redundant functions of 4 pairs of chemosensory neurons (ASE, ASG, ASI, and ASK). The combined activity of several neuron types that act in parallel might increase the fidelity of chemotaxis.