The primary cilium has recently stepped into the spotlight, as a flood of data show that this organelle has crucial roles in vertebrate development and human genetic diseases. Cilia are required for the response to developmental signals, and evidence is accumulating that the primary cilium is specialized for hedgehog signal transduction. The formation of cilia, in turn, is regulated by other signalling pathways, possibly including the planar cell polarity pathway. The cilium therefore represents a nexus for signalling pathways during development. The connections between cilia and developmental signalling have begun to clarify the basis of human diseases associated with ciliary dysfunction.