Abstract In vitro evolution of nucleic acid aptamers is a powerful tool to investigate the structure–function relationship of natural occurring RNA–protein interaction motifs. Otherwise, it also allows the identification of novel RNA-based ligands that can be used to investigate a target’s function in its native environment. However, artifacts have been described during in vitro selection procedures hampering the successful enrichment of aptamers. Here we describe a novel observation, namely the enrichment of pan-protein binding RNA sequences. We demonstrate that evolution of specific target binding sequences originating from a pan-protein binding RNA precursor is possible in general. Our data demonstrate that the mutual co-variation of an ancestor molecule can be applied for the evolution of specific target binding RNA sequences. These results might have implications in the context of the RNA world theory, exemplifying a possible evolutionary route towards protein-specific RNA molecules from a common ancestor.