Available studies are consistent with the possibility that oxygen radicals endogenously produced by mitochondria are causally involved in the determination of the rate of aging in homeothermic vertebrates. Oxidative damage to tissue macromolecules seems to increase during aging. The rate of mitochondrial oxygen radical generation of post-mitotic tissues is negatively correlated with animal longevity. In agreement with this, long-lived animals show lower levels of oxidative damage in their mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) than short-lived ones, whereas this does not occur in nuclear DNA (nDNA). Caloric restriction, which decreases the rate of aging, also decreases mitochondrial oxygen radical generation and oxidative damage to mitochondrial DNA. This decrease in free radical generation occurs in complex I and is due to a decrease in the degree of electronic reduction of the complex I free radical generator, similarly to what has been described in various cases in long-lived animals. These results suggest that similar mechanisms have been used to extend longevity through decreases in oxidative stress in caloric restriction and during the evolution of species with different longevities.