We have examined mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) variation in samples of the mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis from the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Spanish Atlantic coast by scoring for presence or absence of cleavage at 20 restriction sites of a fragment of the COIII gene and at four restriction sites of the 16S RNA gene. This species contains two types of mtDNA genomes, one that is transmitted maternally (the F type) and one that is transmitted paternally (the M type). The M genome evolves at a higher rate than the F genome. Normally, females are homoplasmic for an F type and males are heteroplasmic for an F and an M type. Occasionally molecules from the F lineage invade the paternal transmission route, resulting in males that carry two F-type mtDNA genomes. These features of the mussel mtDNA system give rise to a new set of questions when using mtDNA variation in population studies and phylogeny. We show here that the two mtDNA types provide different information with regard to amounts of variation and genetic distances among populations. The F genome exhibits higher degrees of diversity within populations, while the M genome produces higher degrees of differentiation among populations. There is a strong differentiation between the Atlantic and the Black Sea. The Mediterranean samples have intermediate haplotype frequencies, yet are much closer to the Black Sea than to the Atlantic. We conclude that in this species gene flow among the three Seas is restricted and not enough to erase the combined effect of mutation and random drift. In one sample, that from the Black Sea, the majority of males did not contain an M mtDNA type. This suggests that a molecule of the maternal lineage has recently invaded the paternal route and has increased its frequency in the population to the point that the present pool of paternally transmitted mtDNA molecules is highly heterogeneous and cannot be used to read the population's history. This liability of the paternal route means that in species with doubly uniparental inheritance, the maternal lineage provides more reliable information for population and phylogenetic studies.