The sudden appearance of calcified skeletons among many different invertebrate taxa at the Precambrian-Cambrian transition may have required minor reorganization of preexisting secretory functions. In particular, features of the skeletal organic matrix responsible for regulating crystal growth by inhibition may be derived from mucous epithelial excretions. The latter would have prevented spontaneous calcium carbonate overcrusting of soft tissues exposed to the highly supersaturated Late Proterozoic ocean [Knoll, A. H., Fairchild, I. J. & Swett, K. (1993) Palaios 8, 512-525], a putative function for which we propose the term "anticalcification." We tested this hypothesis by comparing the serological properties of skeletal water-soluble matrices and mucous excretions of three invertebrates--the scleractinian coral Galaxea fascicularis and the bivalve molluscs Mytilus edulis and Mercenaria mercenaria. Crossreactivities recorded between muci and skeletal water-soluble matrices suggest that these different secretory products have a high degree of homology. Furthermore, freshly extracted muci of Mytilus were found to inhibit calcium carbonate precipitation in solution.