Although much is known about how osteoclasts are formed, we know little about how they are activated, or how they recognize bone as the substrate appropriate for resorption. Bone mineral is considered to be essential to this recognition process, but a “mineral receptor” has never been identified. Recently, we found that resorptive behavior, as judged by the formation of ruffled borders and actin rings, occurs on ordinary tissue culture substrates if they are first coated with vitronectin. Similarly, vitronectin-coated substrates induce osteoclasts to secrete tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase and to form podosome belts, and to make resorption trails in the protein that coat the substrate. The same applies to bone mineral, which only induces resorptive behavior if coated with vitronectin. In contrast, fibronectin has none of these effects, despite inducing adhesion and spreading. It appears that osteoclasts recognize bone as the substrate appropriate for resorption through the high affinity of vitronectin-receptor ligands for bone mineral.