In this study we have determined the utility of 254-nm ultraviolet light (UV) as a mutagenic tool in C. elegans. We have demonstrated that irradiation of adult hermaphrodites provides a simple method for the induction of heritable chromosomal rearrangements. A screening protocol was employed that identifies either recessive lethal mutations in the 40 map unit region balanced by the translocation eT1(III;V), or unc-36(III) duplications. Mutations were recovered in 3% of the chromosomes screened after a dose of 120 J/m2. This rate resembles that for 1500 R gamma-ray-induced mutations selected in a similar manner. The mutations were classified either as lethals [mapping to Linkage Group (LG)III or LGV] or as putative unc-36 duplications. In contrast to the majority of UV-induced mutations analysed in microorganisms, we found that a large fraction of the C. elegans UV-induced mutations are not simple intragenic lesions, but are deficiencies for more than one adjacent gene or more complex events. Preliminary evidence for this conclusion came from the high frequency of mutations that had a dominant effect causing reduced numbers of adult progeny. Subsequently 6 out of 9 analysed LGV mutations were found to be deficiencies. Other specific rearrangements also identified were: one translocation, sT5(II;III), and two unc-36 duplications, sDp8 and sDp9. It was concluded that UV irradiation can easily be used as an additional tool for the analysis of C. elegans chromosomes, and that C. elegans should prove to be a useful organism in which to study the mechanisms whereby UV acts as a mutagen in cells of complex eukaryotes.