Starting from a completely homozygous population of Drosophila melanogaster, lines have been derived and subjected to 47 generations of divergent selection for abdominal bristle number (20 lines selected in each direction) or to 60-67 generations of inbreeding (100 B lines maintained by a single brother-sister mating, 100 C lines maintained by two double first cousin matings). In the selected lines, 25 were identified carrying at least 30 mutations affecting bristle number. A large fraction of these mutations (42%) were lethals. Non-lethal mutations had smaller effects on the trait, were predominantly additive and had no detectable pleiotropic effects on fitness. In the inbred lines, 21 mutations affecting bristles were individually analysed. Deleterious mutations had the largest effects on the trait (irrespective of sign) and showed recessive gene action (complete or incomplete). The rest were predominantly additive and had smaller effects. Thus, both procedures identify a quasi-neutral class of additive mutations which should be close to that responsible for standing variation in natural populations. Moreover, the results indicate a leptokurtic distribution of mutant effects, consistent with a model of natural selection acting on bristles through pleiotropic effects of pertinent loci on fitness. Consequently, neutral additive alleles of considerable effect can be found segregating at intermediate frequencies in natural populations.