Only a few cases of exclusive translation initiation at non-AUG codons have been reported. We recently demonstrated that mammalian NAT1 mRNA, encoded by EIF4G2, uses GUG as its only translation initiation codon. In this study, we identified NAT1 orthologs from chicken, Xenopus, and zebrafish and found that in all species, the GUG codon also serves as the initiation codon. In all species, the GUG codon fulfilled the reported requirements for non-AUG initiation: an optimal Kozak motif and a downstream hairpin structure. Site-directed mutagenesis showed that nucleotides at positions -3 and +4 are critical for the GUG-mediated translation initiation in vitro. We found that NAT1 orthologs in Drosophila melanogaster and Halocynthia roretzi also use non-AUG start codons, demonstrating evolutionary conservation of the noncanonical translation initiation.