Bacillus anthracis is the cause of anthrax, and two large plasmids are essential for toxicity: pXO1, which contains the toxin genes, and pXO2, which encodes a capsule. B. anthracis forms a highly monomorphic lineage within the B. cereus group, but strains of Bacillus thuringiensis and B. cereus exist that are genetically closely related to the B. anthracis cluster. During the past five years B. cereus strains that contain the pXO1 virulence plasmid were discovered, and strains with both pXO1 and pXO2 have been isolated from great apes in Africa. Therefore, the presence of pXO1 and pXO2 no longer principally separates B. anthracis from other Bacilli. The B. anthracis lineage carries a specific mutation in the global regulator PlcR, which controls the transcription of secreted virulence factors in B. cereus and B. thuringiensis. Coevolution of the B. anthracis chromosome with its plasmids may be the basis for the successful development and uniqueness of the B. anthracis lineage.