Transcriptional regulation by the aryl hydrocarbon receptor, for which the environmental toxin 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is the most potent ligand, leads in mammalian liver to the induction of genes for two distinct cytochrome P450 (CYP)1A enzymes, CYP1A1 and -1A2. Fish seem to have only one CYP1A enzyme. CYP1A enzymes have been regarded as injurious largely because of their ability to activate chemical carcinogens. We report here the cloning and sequencing of cDNAs for two catalytically distinct TCDD-induced CYP enzymes in chick embryo liver. One mediates classic CYP1A1 activities. The other has some -1A2-like activities and is also responsible for TCDD-induced arachidonic acid epoxygenation, a much more conspicuous effect in liver of chicks than of mammalian species. Amino acid sequence analysis shows that although each chick enzyme can be classified in the CYP1A family, both are more like CYP1A1 than -1A2, and neither can be said to be directly orthologous to CYP1A1 or -1A2. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the two chick enzymes form a separate branch in the CYP1A family tree distinct from mammalian CYP1A1 and -1A2 and from fish CYP1A enzymes. The findings suggest that CYP1A progenitors split into two CYP enzymes with some parallel functions independently in two evolutionary lines, evidence for convergent evolution in the CYP1A family. Northern analysis shows that the chick enzymes have a different tissue distribution from CYP1A1 and -1A2. Polymerase chain reaction and in situ hybridization data show that both chick enzymes are expressed in response to TCDD even before organ morphogenesis. The findings further suggest that beyond their role in activating carcinogens, CYP1A enzymes have conferred evolutionary and developmental advantages, perhaps as defenses in maintaining homeostatic responses to toxic chemicals.