The macrophage cell lineage continually arises from hematopoietic stem cells during embryonic, fetal, and adult life. Previous theories proposed that macrophages are the recent progeny of bone marrow–derived monocytes and that they function primarily in phagocytosis. More recently, however, observations have shown that the ontogeny of macrophages in early mouse and human embryos is different from that occurring during adult development, and that the embryonic macrophages do not follow the monocyte pathway. Fetal macrophages are thought to differentiate from yolk sac–derived primitive macrophages before the development of adult monocytes. Further support for a separate lineage of fetal macrophages has come from studies of several species, including chicken, zebrafish, Xenopus, Drosophila, and C. elegans. The presence of fetal macrophages in PU.1-null mice indicates their independence from monocyte precursors and their existence as an alternative macrophage lineage.