2-carboxyarabinitol 1-phosphate (CA 1-P) is a naturally occurring inhibitor of ribulose-1,5-bisphosphate carboxylase/oxygenase (Rubisco). Members of the Fabaceae exhibit a particularly wide range in the extent of CA 1-P accumulation during darkness and include Phaseolus vulgaris, whose dark/light regulation of Rubisco activity is principally achieved by synthesis/degradation of CA 1-P. An extensive survey of the degree of dark inhibition of Rubisco was undertaken for the subfamily Papilionoideae to elucidate evolutionary patterns in the occurrence of this regulatory mechanism. Seventy-five species from 21 tribes were examined. Dark inhibition of Rubisco was found in ancestral tribes such as the Sophoreae, but was substantially reduced or absent in representative species of three more recently evolved tribes, Cicereae, Hedysareae and Vicieae. We conclude that regulation of Rubisco by CA 1-P is neither of recent origin nor of restricted distribution among the Papilionoideae. On the contrary, it becomes lost or less pronounced only in a minority of the more evolutionarily advanced species in this important subfamily.