Mouse salivary androgen-binding protein (ABP) is a member of the newly erected secretoglobin family, no member of which has yet been assigned an indisputable function. We have suggested a role for ABP in mate selection behaviour and sexual isolation. Although this has been a particularly attractive hypothesis given the evidence for strong positive selection on its alpha subunit gene, Abpa, we have held out the possibility that there might be an as-yet-undiscovered primary function for ABP. This is particularly important in light of its membership in the secretoglobin family, and we are pursuing the broader issue of shared functions of the secretoglobins with genomic and bioinformatic studies. Here we present as complete a comparison as possible of the secretoglobins in the genomes of three species of mammals: mouse, rat and human, and we compare the protein sequences and their potential evolutionary relationships. We suggest that the secretoglobins can be divided into at least five families. In rodent and human genomes, these gene families are found in two main clusters that are syntenic between rat and mouse. Humans have only the three families that are found within the uteroglobin/clara cluster, because no ABP-containing secretoglobin cluster has yet been identified. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 84, 493–501.