Although lacking the components that characterize the acquired immunity systems of vertebrates, invertebrates nevertheless possess effective general innate immune mechanisms which exhibit striking parallels with those of vertebrates. These innate immune systems include both cellular and humoral elements. Invertebrate phagocytes synthesize both oxygen-dependent and oxygen-independent molecules to combat infectious agents. Cytotoxic substances employed by invertebrates include reactive intermediates of oxygen and nitrogen, antimicrobial peptides, lectins, cytokine- and complement-like molecules, and quinoid intermediates of melanin. The signal transduction pathways that are involved in mediating the production of these substances appear to be very similar among animal species, suggesting a common ancestral origin for the innate immune systems.