Several nonclassical major histocompatibilty antigens (class Ib molecules) have emerged as key players in the early immune response to pathogens or stress. Class Ib molecules activate subsets of T cells that mount effector responses before the adaptive immune system, and thus are called innate T cells. MR1 is a novel class Ib molecule with properties highly suggestive of its regulation of mucosal immunity. The Mr1 gene is evolutionarily conserved, is non-Mhc linked, and controls the development of mucosal-associated invariant T (MAIT) cells. MAIT cells preferentially reside in the gut, and their development is dependent on commensal microbiota. Although these properties suggest that MAIT cells function as innate T cells in the mucosa, this has been difficult to test, due to the (i) paucity of MAIT cells that display MR1-specific activation in vitro and (ii) lack of knowledge of whether or not MR1 presents antigen. Here we show that both mouse and human MAIT cells display a high level of cross-reactivity on mammalian MR1 orthologs, but with differences consistent with limited ligand discrimination. Furthermore, acid eluates from recombinant or cellular MR1 proteins enhance MAIT cell activation in an MR1-specific and cross-species manner. Our findings demonstrate that the presentation pathway of MR1 to MAIT cells is highly evolutionarily conserved.