This study was designed to test the free radical theory of aging by using Drosophila melanogaster as a model system. Oxygen free radicals are generated by mitochondria during the process of normal oxidative metabolism. Age-specific measurements of oxygen consumption, heat production and anti-oxidant enzyme activity were obtained from two inbred lines of male flies, one selected for longevity and one normal-lived. The findings of this study demonstrate that although oxygen consumption remains relatively constant over the majority of the life span of each line of flies, aerobic efficiency declines with advancing age. This loss of aerobic efficiency manifests itself as a decline in total body metabolism as measured by heat production, and appears to be associated with an age-specific increase in damage inflicted upon mitochondria by oxygen free radicals.