The three members of the tenascin (TN) family, TN-C, TN-R, and TN-X, are apparently conserved in all vertebrates and therefore must have functions that contribute to survival. One specific domain of tenascins, the fibrinogen-like terminal knob, can be argued to have an essential function. Its position at the C-terminus makes it most vulnerable to loss through mutation or deletion, and it should have been eliminated in evolution if there were no selective pressure to maintain it. The epidermal growth factor and fibronectin III domains probably play an important role as spacers, placing the terminal knob at the end of the tribrachion or hexabrachion arms. In addition to functioning as spacers, at least some of these domains may have additional functional interactions. The conservation of these domains in evolution is comparable to that of some growth factors, consistent with this possibility. A phylogenetic tree of all known fibrinogen-related domains, including those in tenascins, is presented.