In this article, I discuss the hallmarks of hypoxia in vitro and in vivo and review work showing that many types of stem cell proliferate more robustly in lowered oxygen. I then discuss recent studies showing that alterations in the levels and the types of cell and substrate adhesion molecules are a notable response to reduced O(2) levels in both cultured primary neural stem cells and brain tissues in response to hypoxia in vivo. The ability of O(2) levels to regulate adhesion molecule expression is linked to the Wnt signaling pathway, which can control and be controlled by adhesion events. The ability of O(2) levels to influence cell adhesion also has far-reaching implications for development, ischemic trauma and neural regeneration, as well as for cancer and other diseases. Finally I discuss the possibility that the fluctuations in O(2) levels known to have occurred over evolutionary time could, by influencing adhesion systems, have contributed to early symbiotic events in unicellular organisms and to the emergence of multicellularity. It is not my intention to be exhaustive in these domains, which are far from my own field of study. Rather this article is meant to provoke and stimulate thinking about molecular evolution involving O(2) sensing and signaling during eras of geologic and atmospheric change that might inform modern studies on development and disease.