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Horizontal gene transfer in metazoans has been documented in only a few species and is usually associated with endosymbiosis or parasitism. By contrast, in bdelloid rotifers we found many genes that appear to have originated in bacteria, fungi, and plants, concentrated in telomeric regions along with diverse mobile genetic elements. Bdelloid proximal gene-rich regions, however, appeared to lack foreign genes, thereby resembling those of model metazoan organisms. Some of the foreign genes were defective, whereas others were intact and transcribed; some of the latter contained functional spliceosomal introns. One such gene, apparently of bacterial origin, was overexpressed in Escherichia coli and yielded an active enzyme. The capture and functional assimilation of exogenous genes may represent an important force in bdelloid evolution.