We have mapped five human chromosome 21 (HSA 21) markers in marsupials and a monotreme, two major groups of mammals that diverged from eutherians 130-150 and 150-170 million years before present (MYrBP), respectively. We have found that these genes map to two distinct autosomal sites, one containing SOD1/CBR/BCEI and the other containing ETS2/INFAR, in the marsupials Macropus eugenii and Sminthopsis macroura (which belong to orders that diverged 40-80 MYrBP), as well as in the monotreme Ornithorhynchus anatinus (the platypus). Since marsupials and monotremes diverged independently from eutherians, these data suggest that HSA 21 genes were originally located in two separate autosomal blocks. In another Sminthopsis species, SOD1 is linked to TRF (a marker on HSA 3q), suggesting that the ancestral SOD1/CBR/BCEI region also included HSA 3 markers. We suggest that these blocks became fused early in the eutherian evolution to form a HSA 3/21 chromosome, which has remained intact in artiodactyls, but has been independently disrupted in both the primate and rodent lineages.