Given their high copy number and high level of expression, one might expect that both the sequence and organization of eukaryotic ribosomal RNA genes would be conserved during evolution. Although the organization of 18S, 5.8S and 28S ribosomal RNA genes is indeed relatively well conserved, that of 5S rRNA genes is much more variable. Here, we review the different types of 5S rRNA gene arrangements which have been observed in protists. This includes linkages to the other ribosomal RNA genes as well as linkages to ubiquitin, splice-leader, snRNA and tRNA genes. Mapping these linkages to independently derived phylogenies shows that these diverse linkages have repeatedly been gained and lost during evolution. This argues against such linkages being the primitive condition not only in protists but also in other eukaryote species. Because the only characteristic the diverse genes with which 5S rRNA genes are found linked with is that they are tandemly repeated, these arrangements are unlikely to provide any selective advantage. Rather, the observed high variability in 5S rRNA genes arrangements is likely the result of the fact that 5S rRNA genes contain internal promoters, that these genes are often transposed by diverse recombination mechanisms and that these new gene arrangements are rapidly homogenized by unequal crossingovers and/or by gene conversions events in species with short generation times and frequent founder events.