One of the classic questions in the early evolution of eukaryotic life concerns the role of oxygen. Many unicellular eukaryotes are strict anaerobes and many animals have long anoxic phases in their life cycle. But are there also animals that can complete their life cycle without oxygen? In an ongoing debate in BMC Biology, Danovaro and colleagues say "yes" while Bernhard and colleagues say "no". The debate concerns reports of anoxic metazoans in deep sea anaerobic habitats.