Our thesis is that the characteristics of the translational machinery and its organization are selected in part by evolutionary pressure on genomic traits have nothing to do with translation per se. These genomic traits include size, composition, and architecture. To illustrate this point, we draw parallels between the structure of different genomes that have adapted to intracellular niches independently of each other. Our starting point is the general observation that the evolutionary history of organellar and parasitic bacteria have favored bantam genomes. Furthermore, we suggest that the constraints of the reductive mode of genomic evolution account for the divergence of the genetic code in mitochondria and the genetic organization of the translational system observed in parasitic bacteria. In particular, we associate codon reassignments in animal mitochondria with greatly simplified tRNA populations. Likewise, we relate the organization of translational genes in the obligate intracellular parasite Rickettsia prowazekii to the processes supporting the reductive mode of genomic evolution. Such findings provide strong support for the hypothesis that genomes of organelles and of parasitic bacteria have arisen from the much larger genomes of ancestral bacteria that have been reduced by intrachromosomal recombination and deletion events. A consequence of the reductive mode of genomic evolution is that the resulting translation systems may deviate markedly from conventional systems.