During the past decade, it has become apparent that it is within our grasp to understand fully the development and functioning of complex organisms. It is widely accepted that this undertaking must include the elucidation of the genetic blueprint - the genome sequence - of a number of model organisms. As a prelude to the determination of these sequences, clone-based physical maps of the genomes of a number of multicellular animals and plants are being constructed. Yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) vectors, by virtue of their relatively unbiased cloning capabilities and capacity to carry large inserts, have come to play a central role in the construction of these maps. The application of YACs to the physical map of the Caenorhabditis elegans genome has enabled cosmid clone 'islands' to be linked together in an efficient manner. The long-range continuity has improved the linkage between the genetic and physical maps, greatly increasing its utility. Since the genome can be represented by a relatively small number of YACs, it has been possible to make replica filters of genomically ordered YACs available to the community at large.