The transformation of a zygote into an embryo adheres both to nature and to nurture: not only genetics but also environment determines the outcome. This idea has assumed many forms. A territory in the early sea urchin blastula contains clones of founder cells, and each clone contributes exclusively to one territory (Cameron & Davidson, 1991). Both the lineage of a founder cell, i.e. its nature, and the position of a founder cell, which determines how it is nurtured, contribute to its fate. Fertilisation, the topic of the first Forum, fixes the genes; interblastomere communication, the topic here, regulates gene expression. Blastomeres communicate like any other cell – via ligand-receptor interactions and through gap junctions. Saxe and DeHaan review these mechanisms. The definition of ligands and receptors becomes broadened in this context, and cell adhesions as well as gap junctions enter into the story. In spite of these entanglements, it appears that nature uses the same sorts of mechanisms to get cells to specialise that she uses to keep them talking. Thus, neurons and glial cells signal to one another via glutamate receptors and gap junctions (Nedergaard, 1994). Likewise, we expect neurotransmitters (and neurotransmitter transporters) to help signal differentiation. The biophysicist may ask whether electrical properties also play a role, but that we reserve for another Forum. If gap junctions figure in development as fusion pores that pass small molecules and electrical signals between blastomeres, another parallel suggests itself. Brian Dale asked in the first Forum: How does a spermatozoon activate an oocyte? This question, which concerns gamete communication, has produced two schools of thought and remains controversial (Shilling et al., 1994). Do sperm activate oocytes via contact-mediated mechanisms or through fusionmediated mechanisms? Or do both mechanisms occur, as they appear to in development?