Single-fly polymerase chain reaction amplification and direct DNA sequencing revealed high levels of length polymorphism in the threonine-glycine encoding repeat region of the period (per) gene in natural populations of Drosophila melanogaster. DNA comparison of two alleles of identical lengths gave a high number of synonymous substitutions suggesting an ancient time of separation. However detailed examination of the sequences of different Thr-Gly length variants indicated that this divergence could be understood in terms of four deletion/insertion events. In Drosophila pseudoobscura a length polymorphism is observed in a five-amino acid degenerate repeat, which corresponds to melanogaster's Thr-Gly domain. In spite of the differences between D. melanogaster and D. pseudoobscura in the amino acid sequence of the repeats, the predicted secondary structures suggest evolutionary and mechanistic constraints on the per protein of these two species.