SUMMARY The even-skipped related genes (evx) encode homeodomain-containing transcription factors that play key roles in body patterning and neurogenesis in a wide array of Eumetazoa species. It is thought that the genome of the last common ancestor of Chordata contained a unique evx gene linked to a unique ancestral Hox complex. During subsequent evolution, two rounds of whole genome duplication followed by individual gene losses gave rise to three paralogs: evx1, evx2, and eve1. Then, eve1 was maintained in Actinopterygii lineage but not in Tetrapoda. To explain this discrepancy, we examined the expression patterns of the evx1 homologue, Xhox3, in Xenopus laevis and that of evx1 and eve1 in Danio rerio. We show here that Xhox3 is expressed in a manner that closely reflects the inferred expression pattern of the evx1 gene in the last common ancestor of Vertebrata (i.e., in gastrula, the central nervous system, the posterior gut, and the tip of the growing tail). Zebrafish evx1 and Xenopus Xhox3 are expressed in homologous cell lineages of the central nervous system and of the posterior gut, but evx1 was undetectable in the gastrula and the tail bud. Strikingly, eve1 is the only evx gene of zebrafish to be expressed in these two latter regions. Thus, the ancestral expression pattern of evx1 in vertebrates appears to have been distributed between evx1 and eve1 in zebrafish. We propose that evx1 and eve1 underwent a complementary loss of expression domain in zebrafish that allowed the maintenance of the two paralogs in accordance with the duplication-degeneration-complementation model. It is important to note that, in zebrafish, Evx1 and Eve1 have lost most of the protein domain upstream of the homeodomain. In addition, Eve1 has accumulated substitutions in positions that are highly conserved in all other Evx proteins. Thus, the reduction of the expression domain of both evx1 and eve1 in zebrafish appears to be associated with the modification of constraints on the protein sequences, allowing the shortening of both genes and an accelerated substitution rate in eve1.