Nonulosonic acids (NulOs) encompass a large group of structurally diverse nine-carbon backbone α-keto sugars widely distributed among the three domains of life. Mammals express a specialized version of NulOs called sialic acids, which are displayed in prominent terminal positions of cell surface and secreted glycoconjugates. Within bacteria, the ability to synthesize NulOs has been demonstrated in a number of human pathogens and is phylogenetically widespread. Here we examine the distribution, diversity, evolution, and function of NulO biosynthesis pathways in members of the family Vibrionaceae. Among 27 species of Vibrionaceae examined at the genomic level, 12 species contained nab gene clusters. We document examples of duplication, divergence, horizontal transfer, and recombination of nab gene clusters in different Vibrionaceae lineages. Biochemical analyses, including mass spectrometry, confirmed that many species do, in fact, produce di-N-acetylated NulOs. A library of clinical and environmental isolates of Vibrio vulnificus served as a model for further investigation of nab allele genotypes and levels of NulO expression. The data show that lineage I isolates produce about 20-fold higher levels of NulOs than lineage II isolates. Moreover, nab gene alleles found in a subset of V. vulnificus clinical isolates express 40-fold higher levels of NulOs than nab alleles associated with environmental isolates. Taken together, the data implicate the family Vibrionaceae as a "hot spot" of NulO evolution and suggest that these molecules may have diverse roles in environmental persistence and/or animal virulence.