Small body size has been associated with long life span in four stocks of mutant dwarf mice, and in two varieties of dietary restriction in rodents. In this study, small body size at ages 2-24 months was shown to be a significant predictor of life span in a genetically heterogeneous mouse population derived from four common inbred mouse strains. The association was strongest for weights measured early in adult life, and somewhat weaker, though still statistically significant, at later ages. The effect was seen both in males and females, and was replicated in an independent population of the same genetic background. Body size at ages 2-4 months was correlated with levels of serum leptin in both males and females, and with levels of IGF-I and thyroid hormone in females only. A genome scan showed the presence of polymorphic alleles on chromosomes 2, 6, 7 and 15 with significant effects on body weight at 2-4 months, at 10-12 months, or at both age ranges, showing that weight gain trajectory in this stock is under complex genetic control. Because it provides the earliest known predictor of life span, body weight may be usefully included in screens for induced mutations that alter aging. The evidence that weight in 2-month-old mice is a significant predictor of life span suggests that at least some of the lethal diseases of old age can be timed by factors that influence growth rate in juvenile rodents.