To explore the evolutionary nature of the salmonid mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) control region (D-loop) and its utility for inferring phylogenies, the entire region was sequenced from all eight species of anadromous Pacific salmon, genus Oncorhynchus; the Atlantic salmon, Salmo salar; and the Arctic grayling, Thymallus arcticus. A comparison of aligned sequences demonstrates that the generally conserved sequence elements that have been previously reported for other vertebrates are maintained in these primitive teleost fishes. Results reveal a significantly nonrandom distribution of nucleotide substitutions, insertions, and deletions that suggests that portions of the salmonid D-loop may be under differential selective constraints and that most of the control region of these fishes may evolve at a rate similar to that of the remainder of their mtDNA genomes. Maximum likelihood and Fitch parsimony analyses of 9 kb of aligned salmonid sequence data give evolutionary trees of identical topology. These results are consistent with previous molecular studies of a limited number of salmonid taxa and with more comprehensive, classical analyses of salmonid evolution. Predictions from these data, based on a molecular clock assumption for the mtDNA control region, are also consistent with fossil evidence that suggests that species of Oncorhynchus could be as old as the Middle Pliocene and would have thus given rise to the extant Pacific salmon prior to about 5 or 6 million years ago.