It has been suggested that the gene duplication that led to the formation of the vasopressin/oxytocin two-gene family occurred early during vertebrate evolution. However, the existence of both vasopressin- and oxytocin-related peptides in invertebrates suggests that this duplication may have occurred much earlier, although there is no evidence for the co-occurrence of vasopressin- and oxytocin-related peptides in the same invertebrate species. We report here that in Lymnaea only the vasopressin-related peptide Lys-conopressin, but not an oxytocin-related peptide, is present. Moreover, it is very likely that an oxytocin-like cDNA or gene is absent. The conopressin gene is expressed in neurons that control male sexual behavior, and its gene products are present in the penis nerve and the vas deferens. Conopressin induces muscular contractions of the vas deferens and inhibits central neurons that control female reproductive behavior. Thus, although structurally related to vasopressin, conopressin has functional and behavioral characteristics typical for oxytocin. Physiological and receptor binding data suggest that conopressin and [Ile8]-conopressin, a synthetic oxytocin-like analog of conopressin, are functionally equivalent in Lymnaea, and that the chemical nature of the amino acid residue at position 8 does not result in a functional difference. Therefore, we suggest that invertebrates contain only a single member of the vasopressin/oxytocin gene family and that the amino acid change that distinguishes vasopressin from oxytocin is functionally neutral in invertebrates.