The mutation rate per genome for local affecting fitness is crucial in theories of the evolution of sex and recombination and of outbreeding mechanisms. Mutational variation in fitness may also be important in the evolution of mate choice in animals. No information is available on the rate at which spontaneous mutations with small effects on fitness arise, although viability (probability of survival to adulthood) has been studied in Drosophila melanogaster. These experiments involved the accumulation of spontaneous mutations in the virtual absence of natural selection, in a set of independently maintained lines with a common origin. The rates of decline in mean and increase in variance among lines permit estimation of limits to the mean number of new mutations arising per generation (U) and the average homozygous effect of a new mutation of minor effect(s). For the second chromosome of D. melanogaster, the value of U is at least 0.17 (ref. 7), and (1-h)s is less than 0.02, where hs is the average decline in fitness of heterozygotes. As the second chromosome is about 40% of the genome, these data indicate a mutation rate per haploid genome of at least 0.42 for viability. Here we present similar data on the effects of homozygous spontaneous mutations on a measure of fitness in D. melanogaster.