The traditional view has been that respiratory chemoreceptors responsive to changes in P(CO(2))/pH first evolved in air breathing vertebrates at both peripheral and central sites. Recent evidence, however, suggests that fish also possess chemoreceptors responsive to changes in P(CO(2)) per se. In many species these receptors reside in the gills and respond primarily to changes in aquatic rather than arterial P(CO(2)). There is also scattered evidence to suggest that central CO(2)/H(+)-sensitive chemoreceptors may be present in representatives of all fish groups but only the data for air breathing fish are strong and convincing. The phylogenetic trends that are emerging indicate that the use of CO(2) chemoreception for cardiorespiratory processes arose much earlier than previously believed, (arguably) that CO(2) chemoreception may first have arisen in the periphery sensitive to the external environment and that central CO(2)/H(+) chemoreception subsequently arose multiple times in association with several of the independent origins of air breathing, and that the mechanisms of CO(2)/H(+) chemotransduction may be as varied as the different receptor groups involved.