The 18 S ribosomal RNA from a variety of vertebrate species contains some 40 to 47 methyl groups. The majority of these are 2'-O-ribose substituents; the remaining few are on bases. Several lines of evidence have permitted the identification of the precise locations of the methyl groups in the primary structure of 18 S ribosomal RNA of Xenopus laevis and man. Digestion of RNA with T1 ribonuclease, followed by analysis of the methylated oligonucleotides yielded data on sequences immediately surrounding the methyl groups. Preparative hybridization of X. laevis 18 S ribosomal RNA restriction fragments of ribosomal DNA, followed by fingerprinting analysis on RNA recovered from the hybrids, allowed each methylated oligonucleotide to be mapped to a specific region within 18 S ribosomal RNA. The data on RNA oligonucleotides were correlated with Xenopus ribosomal DNA sequence data in the regions defined by the mapping experiments to identify the precise locations of most of the methyl groups in the X. laevis 18 S RNA sequence. The remaining uncertainties in Xenopus were solved with the aid of data from ribonuclease A fingerprints and, in a few instances, relevant oligonucleotide or sequence data from other laboratories. The locations of most of the methyl groups in human 18 S ribosomal RNA were deduced from the high degree of correspondence between methylated oligonucleotides from human and X. laevis 18 S RNA, together with knowledge of the human 18 S ribosomal DNA sequence. The remaining methylation sites in human 18 S RNA were located with assistance from relevant published comparative data. In the aligned sequences, human and other mammalian 18 S RNA are methylated at all the same positions as in X. laevis, and there are seven additional 2'-O-methylation sites in mammalian 18 S RNA. Further features of the methyl group distribution are briefly reviewed.