Chemoreception of environmental stimuli is a major sensory system in small soil nematodes like C. elegans. As in other animals, chemoreception is mediated in C. elegans by members of the seven-transmembrane G-protein-coupled receptor class (7TM GPCRs). We summarize the many large putative chemoreceptor gene families, including the str family (which includes odr-10, the only receptor with an identified ligand), and the sra, srab, srb, srbc, srd, sre, srg, srh, sri, srj, srm, srr, srsx, srt, sru, srv, srw, srx, srxa, and srz families. Together these comprise +/-1280 apparently intact genes and +/-420 apparent pseudogenes, about 7% of the total gene count of C. elegans. These genes are unusually clustered on chromosomes, both within and between families, and are enigmatically concentrated on the large chromosome V. Comparative studies with C. briggsae have revealed extraordinary divergence of the chemoreceptor repertoire between the two species, including frequent amplifications of subfamilies in C. elegans and positive selection in the srz family. The size and complexity of the chemoreceptor gene families also facilitate studies of promoter elements using paralogous and orthologous comparisons, as well as other aspects of gene family and genome evolution.