The goal of this mini-review is to address the long standing argument that the pathogenesis of disc disease is due to the loss and/or the replacement of the notochordal cells by other cell types. We contend that, although cells of different size and morphology exist, there is no strong evidence to support the view that the nucleus pulposus contains cells of distinct lineages. Based on lineage mapping studies and studies of other notochordal markers, we hypothesize that in all animals, including human, nucleus pulposus retains notochordal cells throughout life. Moreover, all cells including chondrocyte-like cells are derived from notochordal precursors, and variations in morphology and size are representative of different stages of maturation, and or, function. Thus, the most critical choice for a suitable animal model should relate more to the anatomical and mechanical characteristics of the motion segment than concerns of cell loss and replacement by non-notochordal cells. Developmental Dynamics 239:2141–2148, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.