Nuclear copies of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) have contaminated PCR-based mitochondrial studies of over 64 different animal species. Since the last review of these nuclear mitochondrial pseudogenes (Numts) in animals, Numts have been found in 53 of the species studied. The recent evidence suggests that Numts are not equally abundant in all species, for example they are more common in plants than in animals, and also more numerous in humans than in Drosophila. Methods for avoiding Numts have now been tested, and several recent studies demonstrate the potential utility of Numt DNA sequences in evolutionary studies. As relics of ancient mtDNA, these pseudogenes can be used to infer ancestral states or root mitochondrial phylogenies. Where they are numerous and selectively unconstrained, Numts are ideal for the study of spontaneous mutation in nuclear genomes.