Studies in heart and nonsynaptic brain mitochondria from two mammals and three birds show that complex I generates oxygen radicals in heart and nonsynaptic brain mitochondria in States 4 and 3, whereas complex III does it only in heart mitochondria and only in State 4. The increase in oxygen consumption during the State 4 to 3 transition is not accompanied by a proportional increase in oxygen radical generation. This will protect mitochondria and tissues during bursts of activity. Comparisons between young and old rodents do not show a consistent pattern of variation in mitochondrial oxygen radical production during aging. However, all the interspecies comparisons performed to date between different mammals, and between mammals and birds, agree that animals with high maximum longevities have low rates of mitochondrial oxygen radical production, irrespective of the value of their basal specific metabolic rate. The sites and mechanisms allowing this, the recently described low degree of membrane fatty acid unsaturation of longevous animals, and their relation to longevity and aging are discussed.