The centrosome, a cytoplasmic organelle formed by cylinder-shaped centrioles surrounded by a microtubule-organizing matrix, is a hallmark of animal cells. The centrosome is conserved and essential for the development of all animal species described so far. Here, we show that, unlike the rest of animals, planarians and possibly other flatworms as well completely lack centrosomes. We found that planarians assemble centrioles de novo in ciliated cells, but lack the pathway for centriole duplication underlying centrosome reproduction in other animal species. This unique characteristic allowed us to identify a large set of conserved proteins required for centriole assembly in animals, as well as the centrosome signature proteins missing from the planarian genome. Our study uncovers the molecular architecture and evolution of the animal centrosome and emphasizes the plasticity of animal cell biology and development.