Voltage-gated potassium channels are critical elements in providing functional diversity in nervous systems. The diversity of voltage-gated K+ channels in modern triploblastic metazoans (such as mollusks, arthropods and vertebrates) is provided primarily by four gene subfamilies (Shaker, Shal, Shab, and Shaw), but there has been no data from the ancient diploblastic metazoans until now. Diploblasts, represented by jellyfish and other coelenterates, arose during the first major metazoan radiation and are the most structurally primitive animals to have true nervous systems. By comparing the K+ channels of diploblasts and triploblasts, we may determine the fundamental set of K+ channels present in the first nervous systems. We now report the isolation of two Shaker subfamily cDNA clones, jShak1 and jShak2, from the hydrozoan jellyfish Polyorchis penicillatus (Phylum Cnidaria). JShak1 and jShak2 express transient outward currents in Xenopus oocytes most similar to Shaker currents from Drosophila in their rates of inactivation and recovery from inactivation. The finding of multiple Shaker subfamily genes is significant in that multiple Shaker genes also exist in mammals. In Drosophila, multiple Shaker channels are also produced, but by a mechanism of alternative splicing. Thus, the Shaker K+ channel subfamily had an established functional identity prior to the first major radiation of metazoans, and multiple forms of Shaker channels have been independently selected for in a wide range of metazoans.