We have isolated and characterized several members of the P transposable element family from a Drosophila melanogaster P strain. Large 2.9 kb elements are present as multiple highly conserved copies together with smaller (0.5-1.6 kb), heterogeneous elements. The complete DNA sequences of the 2.9 kb element and four small elements (previously isolated from hybrid-dysgenesis-induced mutations of the white locus) have been determined. Each small element appears to have arisen from the 2.9 kb element by a different internal deletion. P elements have 31 bp perfect inverse terminal repeats and upon insertion duplicate an 8 bp sequence found only once at the site of insertion. Three of the insertions into the white locus occurred at the same nucleotide, indicating a high degree of local site specificity for insertion. The basis of this specificity has been investigated by DNA sequence analysis of the sites where 18 P elements are found. A revertant of one of the white locus mutants has been found to result from precise excision of the P element, restoring the wild-type DNA sequence.