Inteins are mobile genetic elements capable of self-splicing post-translationally. They exist in all three domains of life including in viruses and bacteriophage, where they have a sporadic distribution even among very closely related species. In this review, we address this anomalous distribution from the point of view of the evolution of the host species as well as the intrinsic features of the inteins that contribute to their genetic mobility. We also discuss the incidence of inteins in functionally important sites of their host proteins. Finally, we describe instances of conditional protein splicing. These latter observations lead us to the hypothesis that some inteins have adapted to become sensors that play regulatory roles within their host protein, to the advantage of the organism in which they reside.