Synovial joints are the lubricated connections between the bones of our body that are commonly affected in arthritis. It is assumed that synovial joints first evolved as vertebrates came to land, with ray-finned fishes lacking lubricated joints. Here, we examine the expression and function of a critical lubricating protein of mammalian synovial joints, Prg4/Lubricin, in diverse ray-finned fishes. We find that Prg4 homologs are specifically enriched at the jaw and pectoral fin joints of zebrafish, stickleback, and gar, with genetic deletion of the zebrafish prg4b gene resulting in the same age-related degeneration of joints as seen in lubricin-deficient mice and humans. Our data support lubricated synovial joints evolving much earlier than currently accepted, at least in the common ancestor of all bony vertebrates. Establishment of the first arthritis model in the highly regenerative zebrafish will offer unique opportunities to understand the aetiology and possible treatment of synovial joint disease.