Cytoplasmic polyadenylylation is an evolutionarily conserved mechanism involved in the translational activation of a set of maternal messenger RNAs (mRNAs) during early development. In this report, we show by interspecies injections that Xenopus and mouse use the same regulatory sequences to control cytoplasmic poly(A) addition during meiotic maturation. Similarly, Xenopus and Drosophila embryos exploit functionally conserved signals to regulate polyadenylylation during early post-fertilization development. These experiments demonstrate that the sequence elements that govern cytoplasmic polyadenylylation, and hence one form of translational activation, function across species. We infer that the requisite regulatory sequence elements, and likely the trans-acting components with which they interact, have been conserved since the divergence of vertebrates and arthropods.