Evolutionary aspects of three characteristics of the mammalian hematopoietic system are considered in the context of both established and recent data. First, the lineage relationships among early members of the hematopoietic hierarchy are reconsidered in a tripartite model proposing lineage segregation based on vascular function, innate immunity, and acquired immunity on an evolutionary time scale. Second, the observation of two stem cell populations that differ in cell cycle status is considered as an evolved mechanism to enhance survival of the species in response to exposure to environmental toxins. Finally, the mobilization of hematopoietic stem cells into the peripheral circulation is proposed to be a mechanism for rapid dissemination of myeloid function during acute bacterial infections. These revolutionary hypotheses challenge some conventional concepts of stem cell biology, and provide an evolutionary context for considering mammalian hematopoiesis.