The replicative life spans of mammalian fibroblasts in vitro were studied in a number of cell cultures representing eight species. Emphasis was placed on determining the population doubling level at which phase III (a period of decrease in the rate of proliferation) and chromosomal alterations occur. All the cell cultures studied went through a growth crisis, a period of apparent growth cessation lasting for at least 2 weeks. In most cultures, the crisis represented the end of their replicative capacities, but in some cultures cell proliferation was resumed after the crisis. A predominantly diploid chromosome constitution (more than 75%) was demonstrated prior to the growth crisis. In cultures in which cell proliferation was resumed after the crisis, a nondiploid constitution prevailed in all cases except the rat (with 90% or more diploid cells all the time). The growth crisis occurred at population doubling levels that were characteristic for the species and was shown to be related to the species' maximal life span by a strict power law, being proportional to the square root of the maximal life span. Based on data in the literature, the same relationship was also valid for the lifespans of circulating mammalian erythrocytes in vivo. These results may indicate the prevalence of a common functional basis regulating the life span of fibroblasts and erythrocytes and thus operating in replicative as well as postmitotic cells in vitro and in vivo.