The recent accumulation of genomic information of many representative animals has made it possible to trace the evolution of the complement system based on the presence or absence of each complement gene in the analyzed genomes. Genome information from a few mammals, chicken, clawed frog, a few bony fish, sea squirt, fruit fly, nematoda and sea anemone indicate that bony fish and higher vertebrates share practically the same set of complement genes. This suggests that most of the gene duplications that played an essential role in establishing the mammalian complement system had occurred by the time of the teleost/mammalian divergence around 500 million years ago (MYA). Members of most complement gene families are also present in ascidians, although they do not show a one-to-one correspondence to their counterparts in higher vertebrates, indicating that the gene duplications of each gene family occurred independently in vertebrates and ascidians. The C3 and factor B genes, but probably not the other complement genes, are present in the genome of the cnidaria and some protostomes, indicating that the origin of the central part of the complement system was established more than 1,000 MYA.