Largely because fusion of the lip and the palate are developmental weak points, common facial clefts may arise in a great many ways, both experimentally and in man. However, we believe that the vast majority of human clefts have similar origins with minor variations. One must always question the appropriateness of animal models. Apparently appropriate animal models are giving us considerable insight into the manner in which genetic and environmental factors alter development and how they interact with one another in the developing embryo. These studies help us understand the nature of the multifactorial threshold concept as it applies to cleft lip and cleft palate, and they emphasize the potential importance of even "minor" environmental factors in determining on which side of the threshold for clefting an individual embryo may fall.