We have characterized Tdr1, a family of Tc1-like transposable elements found in the genome of zebrafish (Danio rerio). The copy number and distribution of the sequence in the zebrafish genome have been determined, and by these criteria Tdr1 can be classified as a moderately repetitive, interspersed element. Examination of the sequences and structures of several copies of Tdr1 revealed that a particular deletion derivative, 1250 bp long, of the transposon has been amplified to become the dominant form of Tdr1. The deletion in these elements encompasses sequences encoding the N-terminal portion of the putative Tdr1 transposase. Sequences corresponding to the deleted region were also detected, and thus allowed prediction of the nucleotide sequence of a hypothetical full-length element. Well conserved segments of Tc1-like transposons were found in the flanking regions of known fish genes, suggesting that these elements have a long evolutionary history in piscine genomes. Tdr1 elements have long, 208 bp inverted repeats, with a short DNA motif repeated four times at the termini of the inverted repeats. Although different from that of the prototype C. elegans transposon Tc1, this inverted repeat structure is shared by transposable elements from salmonid fish species and two Drosophila species. We propose that these transposons form a subgroup within the Tc1-like family. Comparison of Tc1-like transposons supports the hypothesis that the transposase genes and their flanking sequences have been shaped by independent evolutionary constraints. Although Tc1-like sequences are present in the genomes of several strains of zebrafish and in salmonid fishes, these sequences are not conserved in the genus Danio, thus raising the possibility that these elements can be exploited for gene tagging and genome mapping.