Single gene, hypomorphic mutations which extend the life spans of cold-blooded animals, such as the methuselah (mth) mutation in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, may have additional, deleterious effects on overall fitness. The hypotheses tested here were: (i) that the extension of life span by mth might be temperature-dependent, and (ii) that it might be associated with depression of reproductive output, physical activity, or the rate of metabolism. The effect of mth on life span was smaller in magnitude than reported previously, and it was both sex-specific and temperature-dependent. Female longevity was increased only at 29 degrees C, whereas for male flies the extension of mean life span diminished progressively from 15-25% 25-29 degrees C to 2% at 18 degrees C, and the survival time at 4 degrees C was decreased by 22-39%. Conversely, the lifetime reproductive output of mth mutants was decreased at 29 degrees C, but increased at 18-22 degrees C. The walking speed of mth flies was significantly elevated, but mth had no effect on the rate of oxygen consumption at 25 degrees C. Collectively, the results demonstrate that where the life span is extended, there is an offsetting effect on reproductive output, suggesting that mth induces trade-off effects and is not a direct, mechanistic regulator of the aging process.