The neighbourhoods of cytochrome P450 (CYP) genes in deuterostome genomes, as well as those of the cnidarians Nematostella vectensis and Acropora digitifera and the placozoan Trichoplax adhaerens were examined to find clues concerning the evolution of CYP genes in animals. CYP genes created by the 2R whole genome duplications in chordates have been identified. Both microsynteny and macrosynteny were used to identify genes that coexisted near CYP genes in the animal ancestor. We show that all 11 CYP clans began in a common gene environment. The evidence implies the existence of a single locus, which we term the 'cytochrome P450 genesis locus', where one progenitor CYP gene duplicated to create a tandem set of genes that were precursors of the 11 animal CYP clans: CYP Clans 2, 3, 4, 7, 19, 20, 26, 46, 51, 74 and mitochondrial. These early CYP genes existed side by side before the origin of cnidarians, possibly with a few additional genes interspersed. The Hox gene cluster, WNT genes, an NK gene cluster and at least one ARF gene were close neighbours to this original CYP locus. According to this evolutionary scenario, the CYP74 clan originated from animals and not from land plants nor from a common ancestor of plants and animals. The CYP7 and CYP19 families that are chordate-specific belong to CYP clans that seem to have originated in the CYP genesis locus as well, even though this requires many gene losses to explain their current distribution. The approach to uncovering the CYP genesis locus overcomes confounding effects because of gene conversion, sequence divergence, gene birth and death, and opens the way to understanding the biodiversity of CYP genes, families and subfamilies, which in animals has been obscured by more than 600 Myr of evolution.