Abstract Mitochondria are the product of an ancient symbiosis between bacteria and host cells. While mitochondria function primarily in energy conversion, increasing amounts of evidence indicate that mitochondrial metabolic state can influence various emergent features of eukaryotic cells. Important intermediaries in such redox signaling include by-products of metabolism, particularly reactive oxygen species (ROS). This review uses cnidarians, a group of basally branching animals, to illustrate the many and varied effects of ROS on development. ROS from both mitochondria and algal symbionts are considered. Because some applications of ROS may lack specificity, the signaling demands of mitochondria and algae may to some extent conflict. An extensive algal symbiosis may thus be incompatible with a well-developed capacity for mitochondrial signaling.