The immune system is based on the actions of the collection of specialized immune defense cells and their secreted proteins and peptides that defend the host against infection by parasites. Parasites are organisms that live part or all of their lives in close physical association with the host and extract nutrients from the host and, by releasing toxins and virulence factors, cause disease with the potential for injury and premature death of that host. Parasites of the metazoa can be viruses, eubacteria, fungi, protozoans, and other metazoans. The immune system operates to kill or eliminate parasites and eliminate or detoxify their toxins and virulence factors. Although some of the elements of immune systems are specific to a particular phylum of metazoans, others show extensive evolutionary conservation, being present in several or all major phyla of the metazoa. The pentraxins display this latter character in their roles in immune defense. Pentraxins have been documented in vertebrates, nonvertebrate chordates, arthropods, and mollusks and may be present in other taxa of metazoans. Presumably the pentraxins appeared early in the evolution of metazoa, prior to their evolutionary divergence in the Precambrian epoch into many phyla present today, and have been preserved for the 542 million years since that explosive evolutionary radiation. The fidelity with which these phyla have preserved the pentraxins suggests that the functions of these proteins are important for survival of the members of these diverse taxa of animals.