The integrins form a large family of cell adhesion receptors. All multicellular animals express integrins, indicating that the family evolved relatively early in the history of metazoans, and homologous sequences of the component domains of integrin alpha and beta subunits are seen in prokaryotes. Some integrins, however, seem to be much younger. For example, the alphaI domain containing integrins, including collagen receptors and leukocyte integrins, have been found in chordates only. Here, we will discuss what conclusions can be drawn about integrin function by studying the evolutionary conservation of integrins. We will also look at how studying integrins in organisms such as the fruit fly and mouse has helped our understanding of integrin evolution-function relationships. As an illustration of this, we will summarize the current understanding of integrin involvement in skeletal muscle formation.