Most eukaryotic cell types use a common program to regulate the process of cell division. During mitosis, successful partitioning of the genetic material depends on spatially coordinated chromosome movement and cell cleavage. Here we characterize a zebrafish mutant, retsina (ret), that exhibits an erythroid-specific defect in cell division with marked dyserythropoiesis similar to human congenital dyserythropoietic anemia. Erythroblasts from ret fish show binuclearity and undergo apoptosis due to a failure in the completion of chromosome segregation and cytokinesis. Through positional cloning, we show that the ret mutation is in a gene (slc4a1) encoding the anion exchanger 1 (also called band 3 and AE1), an erythroid-specific cytoskeletal protein. We further show an association between deficiency in Slc4a1 and mitotic defects in the mouse. Rescue experiments in ret zebrafish embryos expressing transgenic slc4a1 with a variety of mutations show that the requirement for band 3 in normal erythroid mitosis is mediated through its protein 4.1R-binding domains. Our report establishes an evolutionarily conserved role for band 3 in erythroid-specific cell division and illustrates the concept of cell-specific adaptation for mitosis.