Several recent studies have produced comparative maps of genes on amniote sex chromosomes, revealing homology of gene content and arrangement across lineages as divergent as mammals and lizards. For example, the chicken Z chromosome, which shares homology with the sex chromosomes of all birds, monotremes, and a gecko, is a striking example of stability of genome organization and retention, or independent acquisition, of function in sex determination. In other lineages, such as snakes and therian mammals, well conserved but independently evolved sex chromosome systems have arisen. Among lizards, novel sex chromosomes appear frequently, even in congeneric species. Here, we review recent gene mapping data, examine the evolutionary relationships of amniote sex chromosomes and argue that gene content can predispose some chromosomes to a specialized role in sex determination.