A bovine rhodopsin complementary DNA probe was used to detect homologous visual pigment genes in a variety of species. Under stringent DNA hybridization conditions, genomic DNA from most vertebrate species carried a single homologous fragment. Additional homologies were detected in some vertebrates by reducing the hybridization stringency. Homologous fragments were also detected in DNA isolated from invertebrate species, a unicellular alga, and an archaebacterium; many of these fragments were homologous to a Drosophila opsin probe. These results suggest that photosensory pigments in a wide variety of species arose from a common precursor.