From recent work the putative eutherian karyotype from 100 Mya has been derived. Here, we have applied a new in silico technique, electronic chromosome painting (E-painting), on a large data set of genes whose positions are known in human, chicken, zebrafish and pufferfish. E-painting identifies conserved syntenies in the data set, and it enables a stepwise reconstruction of the ancestral vertebrate protokaryotype comprising 11 protochromosomes. During karyotype evolution in land vertebrates interchromosomal rearrangements by translocation are relatively frequent, whereas the karyotypes of birds and fish are much more conserved. Although the human karyotype is one of the most conserved in eutherians, it can no longer be considered highly conserved from a vertebrate-wide perspective.