Osteoclasts are the principal, if not exclusive, bone-resorbing cells, and their activity has a profound impact on skeletal health. So, disorders of skeletal insufficiency, such as osteoporosis, typically represent enhanced osteoclastic bone resorption relative to bone formation. Prevention of pathological bone loss therefore depends on an appreciation of the mechanisms by which osteoclasts differentiate from their precursors and degrade the skeleton. The past five years have witnessed important insights into osteoclast formation and function. Many of these discoveries have been made through genetic experiments that involved the rare hereditary disorder osteopetrosis.