Fim operons were examined to illuminate the emergence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 from the less-virulent E. coli O55:H7. A fim invertible element deletion occurred only after O157:H7 descended from O55:H7, and after sorbitol nonfermenting O157 diverged. Type 1 pili nonexpression correlates with this deletion in all enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) tested. An N135K FimH mutation in the two most evolved O157:H7 clusters is not found in other EHEC. These data refine the evolutionary history of an emerging pathogen.