The genome of Schistosoma mansoni, a human blood fluke, contains a family of short repetitive DNA elements which we have named the SM alpha family. In this paper we report the sequences of two SM alpha family members which are derived from tandem arrangements and four family members which are dispersed copies. The two tandemly repeated copies are 331 and 335 bp, while the four dispersed copies range in size from 107 to 322 bp. Three dispersed copies are flanked by direct repeats and have AT-rich 3' ends. The tandem copies and one of the dispersed copies have regions of homology to RNA polymerase III promoters and arginine tRNA genes. In addition the repeated element is rearranged in two of the dispersed copies when compared with the other dispersed and two tandem copies. Localization studies show that SM alpha elements are distributed in the sex and autosomal chromosomes. These observations suggest that members of this family may have been dispersed throughout the genome via RNA intermediates.