We report an assay of egg-to-adult viability in full-sibling mutation accumulation (MA) lines derived from a completely homozygous population of Drosophila melanogaster and maintained for 210 generations. A simultaneous evaluation was also made of a large population derived from the same origin and maintained as a control for the same period. We also present computer simulations to explore the possible decline in viability of the control population due to mutation accumulation and the possible effect of selection within and between MA lines. For this purpose, we used two mutational models independent from the data analyzed and based on radically different assumptions. The first model implies a large number of mutations of small effect, whereas the second implies a much smaller number of mutations with much larger effects. The observed rate of decline in mean viability was very small but significant (0.077%). The rate of increase in among line variance (0.189 x 10(-3)) was similar to those obtained previously in the same lines. The simulation results indicated that a model of many mutations of small effect is incompatible with the evolution of the mean viability of the control and MA lines over generations, the distribution of line means after 210 generations of mutation accumulation, and the pattern of line extinction over generations. Basically, this model predicted a large drop in viability, both in the control and particularly the MA lines, that is not observed empirically. It also predicted a rate of line extinction too low in the early generations and too high in the later ones. In contrast, the model based on few mutations of large effect was generally consistent with all the observations.