We report here on the identification in Arabidopsis thaliana of a new family of transposable elements named Hairpin. These elements are related to foldback transposons (FTs), a large and heterogeneous group of transposable elements first described in Drosophila and recently in Solanaceae. Hairpin elements are the first family of FTs reported in Arabidopsis thaliana and the first family of FTs of type 3 to be described in the plant kingdom. In contrast to previous FTs described, Hairpin appears to be a homogeneous family in size (238 +/- 7 bp) as well as in structure. Hairpin elements are dispersed in the Arabidopsis genome and Southern hybridization revealed that they are present in relatively low copy numbers. Finally, we discuss the potential usefulness of these elements in studying the phylogenetic relationship between Arabidopsis ecotypes.