The Arenaviridae family currently comprises 22 viral species, each of them associated with a rodent species. This viral family is important both as tractable experimental model systems to study acute and persistent infections and as clinically important human pathogens. Arenaviruses are enveloped viruses with a bi-segmented negative-strand RNA genome. The interaction with the cellular receptor and subsequent entry into the host cell differs between Old World and New World arenavirus that use alpha-dystoglycan or human transferring receptor 1, respectively, as main receptors. The recent development of reverse genetic systems for several arenaviruses has facilitated progress in understanding the molecular biology and cell biology of this viral family, as well as opening new approaches for the development of novel strategies to combat human pathogenic arenaviruses. On the other hand, increased availability of genetic data has allowed more detailed studies on the phylogeny and evolution of arenaviruses. As with other riboviruses, arenaviruses exist as viral quasispecies, which allow virus adaptation to rapidly changing environments. The large number of different arenavirus host reservoirs and great genetic diversity among virus species provide the bases for the emergence of new arenaviruses potentially pathogenic for humans.