Alternative possibilities for the establishment of the proper cell distribution during embryogenesis are summarized at the beginning, followed by an assessment of the examples known so far where cell-cell recognition is known to be mediated via cell surface components. In the second part the species-specific recognition process which occurs during the sorting-out of dissociated sponge cells is analysed since it may serve as a possible model for cell-cell recognition in higher animals. Three possible mechanisms for the establishment of proper cell distribution are considered. These include, first, chemotaxis; secondly, guidance of cell or cell sheet movement by extracellular matrix or by surrounding cells and thirdly, random movement followed by recognition at the final point of destination. Recognition is necessary for both of the two latter processes, i.e. for cell guidance as well as for locking the cells into their final position after random movement. Two basically different recognition mechanisms should be distinguished from each other. On the one hand cells may recognize each other with the help of macromolecules situated in or just outside of the plasmamembrane which fit to each other like enzymes and substrates or antibodies and antigens. On the other hand, cells may exchange information by exchanging cytoplasmatic components via vesicles or gap junctions. The species-specific aggregation of dissociated sponge cells is considered to be a possible model for cell-cell recognition in higher animals. A proteoglycan-like inter-cellular macromolecule called aggregation factor seems to mediate recognition of a given species of cells in the reaggregation process of dissociated cells. The data available at the present time suggest that a monovalent surface macromolecule (baseplate) may mediate the recognition process probably by recognizing the carbohydrate side chains of the multivalent proteoglycan aggregation factor. A cell-free system was devised to mimic this aggregation process. Addition of aggregation factor to baseplate-coated sepharose beads of approximately the size of the original sponge cells has essentially the same characteristics as the cellular system. Macromolecule-coded surface information for the recognition between cells has not been established during the embryogenesis of higher animals and remains an interesting challenge.