CD1 genes encode cell surface molecules that present lipid antigens to various kinds of T lymphocytes of the immune system. The structures of CD1 genes and molecules are like the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) class I system, the loading of antigen and the tissue distribution for CD1 molecules are like those in the class II system, and phylogenetic analyses place CD1 between class I and class II sequences, altogether leading to the notion that CD1 is a third ancient system of antigen presentation molecules. However,thus far, CD1 genes have only been described in mammals,birds and reptiles, leaving major questions as to their origin and evolution. In this review, we recount a little history of the field so far and then consider what has been learned about the structure and functional attributes of CD1 genes and molecules in marsupials, birds and reptiles. We describe the central conundrum of CD1 evolution, the genomic location of CD1 genes in the MHC and/or MHC paralogous regions in different animals, considering the three models of evolutionary history that have been proposed. We describe the natural killer(NK) receptors NKR-P1 and ligands, also found in different genomic locations for different animals. We discuss the consequence of these three models, one of which includes the repudiation of a guiding principle for the last 20 years, that two rounds of genome-wide duplication at the base of the vertebrates provided the extra MHC genes necessary for the emergence of adaptive immune system of jawed vertebrates.