Preliminary studies with restriction fragment length polymorphisms of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster revealed considerable variation in terms of nucleotide sequence and overall size. In this report we present data from more isofemale lines and more restriction enzymes, and explore the utility of the data in inferring a colonization history of this species. Size variation in the noncoding A + T-rich region is particularly plentiful, with size variants occurring in all restriction site haplotypes in all populations. We report here classes of small-scale mobility polymorphisms (apparent range of 20 bp) in specific restriction fragments in the coding region. The variation in one such fragment appears to be generated even more rapidly than in the noncoding region. On the basis of the distribution of restriction site haplotypes, the species range can be divided into three major regions along longitudinal lines: Euro-African populations are the most diverse and are taken to be oldest; Far East populations have a complex distribution of haplotypes; Western Hemisphere populations are the least diverse and are interpreted to be the youngest. The history inferred from mtDNA alone is remarkably similar to one based on several nuclear markers. The mtDNA haplotype distribution is also very different from that of allozymes in these same populations. We interpret this as further evidence that natural selection is still the most parsimonious explanation for the parallel latitudinal allozyme clines in this species.