The superfamily of proteins containing C-type lectin-like domains (CTLDs) is a large group of extracellular Metazoan proteins with diverse functions. The CTLD structure has a characteristic double-loop ('loop-in-a-loop') stabilized by two highly conserved disulfide bridges located at the bases of the loops, as well as a set of conserved hydrophobic and polar interactions. The second loop, called the long loop region, is structurally and evolutionarily flexible, and is involved in Ca2+-dependent carbohydrate binding and interaction with other ligands. This loop is completely absent in a subset of CTLDs, which we refer to as compact CTLDs; these include the Link/PTR domain and bacterial CTLDs. CTLD-containing proteins (CTLDcps) were originally classified into seven groups based on their overall domain structure. Analyses of the superfamily representation in several completely sequenced genomes have added 10 new groups to the classification, and shown that it is applicable only to vertebrate CTLDcps; despite the abundance of CTLDcps in the invertebrate genomes studied, the domain architectures of these proteins do not match those of the vertebrate groups. Ca2+-dependent carbohydrate binding is the most common CTLD function in vertebrates, and apparently the ancestral one, as suggested by the many humoral defense CTLDcps characterized in insects and other invertebrates. However, many CTLDs have evolved to specifically recognize protein, lipid and inorganic ligands, including the vertebrate clade-specific snake venoms, and fish antifreeze and bird egg-shell proteins. Recent studies highlight the functional versatility of this protein superfamily and the CTLD scaffold, and suggest further interesting discoveries have yet to be made.