Most multicellular organisms regulate developmental transitions by microRNAs, which are generated by an enzyme, Dicer. Insects and fungi have two Dicer-like genes, and many animals have only one, yet the plant, Arabidopsis, has four. Examining the poplar and rice genomes revealed that they contain five and six Dicer-like genes, respectively. Analysis of these genes suggests that plants require a basic set of four Dicer types which were present before the divergence of mono- and dicotyledonous plants (∼200 million years ago), but after the divergence of plants from green algae. A fifth type of Dicer seems to have evolved in monocots.