Heat shock genes are considered to be likely candidate genes for environmental stress resistance. Nucleotide variation in the coding sequence of the small heat shock genes (hsps) hsp26 and hsp27 from Drosophila melanogaster was studied in flies originating from the Netherlands and eastern Australia. The hsp26 gene was polymorphic for an insertion/deletion of three extra amino acids and two nonsynonymous changes in all populations. The hsp27 gene exhibited two nonsynonymous changes and three synonymous mutations. The hsp26 polymorphism showed a latitudinal cline along the east coast of Australia. This pattern was not confounded by the fact that the shsps are located in the inversion In(3 L)P which also shows a latitudinal cline in eastern Australia. A similar latitudinal cline was found for the previously described variation in hsp23, while frequencies of hsp27 alleles did not change with latitude. These findings suggest that variation at two of the shsps or closely linked loci are under selection in natural populations of D. melanogaster.