The nuclei pulposi of the intervertebral discs (IVDs) contain a mixed population of cell types at various stages of maturation. This tissue is formed either by or with the help of cells from the embryonic notochord, which appear to be replaced during development by a population of chondrocyte-like cells of uncertain origin. However, this transition occurs at widely varying times, depending upon the species – or even breed – of the animal being examined. There is considerable debate among spine researchers as to whether the presence of these residual notochordal cells has a significant impact upon IVD degeneration models, and thus which models may best represent the human condition. The present study examines several different species commonly used in lumbar spine investigations to explore the variability of notochordal cells in the IVD.