We review the causes, mechanisms and consequences of crustal anatexis during the exhumation of metamorphic terranes, from a petrological perspective. During both prograde and retrograde metamorphism, limited influx of free hydrous fluids may result in small volumes of very hydrous melts, which cannot ascend far (if at all) before reaching their solidus. If thermal conditions for dehydration melting are attained in fertile micaceous crustal layers, much larger volumes of water-undersaturated granitic magmas may result, especially where limited external fluid influx raises water activities above those that may be buffered by dehydrating hydrous phases. Magmas have specific trace element characteristics depending on the reaction which formed them which, combined with accessory phase thermometry, may enable the (P-T) conditions of melting to be ascertained. Small volume-fraction magmas will typically remain as in situ migmatites unless their extraction is assisted by deformation. In turn, deformation will be focused in weaker partially molten zones, so that water-undersaturated magmas may often be mobilized. Once segregated, their ascent is limited by the rate of dyke propagation, and they may reach shallow levels (<2 kbar) before crystallizing. The complex interplay between deformation and melting is exemplified by the Miocene evolution of the central Himalaya, where thrust and normal faulting, melting and exhumation were all simultaneously active processes which were linked by feedback relations. In the Nanga Parbat Massif of the western Himalaya, rapid post-Miocene denudation and vigorous fluid flux enabled rocks to experience more than one episode of melting simultaneously, at different levels of the same exhuming crustal section.