Recent insights have revolutionized our understanding of the importance of chemical signals in influencing vertebrate behaviour. Previously unknown families of pheromonal signals have been identified that are expanding the traditional definition of a pheromone. Although previously regarded as functioning independently, the main olfactory and vomeronasal systems have been found to have considerable overlap in terms of the chemosignals they detect and the effects that they mediate. Studies using gene-targeted mice have revealed an unexpected diversity of chemosensory systems and their underlying cellular and molecular mechanisms. Future developments could show how the functions of the different chemosensory systems are integrated to regulate innate and learned behavioural and physiological responses to pheromones.