Alternating purine and pyrimidine repeats (RY(i)) are an abundant source of polymorphism. The subset with long tandem repeats of GT or AC (GT(i)) have been studied extensively, but cryptic RY(i) (i.e., no single tandem repeat predominates) have received little attention. The factor IX gene has a polymorphic cryptic RY(i) of 142-216 bp. Previously, there were four known polymorphic alleles, of the form AB, A2B, A2B2, and A3B2, where A = (GT)(AC)3(AT)3(GT)(AT)4 and B = A with an additional 3' AT dinucleotide. To further characterize this locus, we examined more than 1,700 additional human chromosomes and determined the sequences of the homologous sites in orangutans and chimpanzees. The novel alleles found in humans expand the repertoire of A/B alleles to A0-4B1 and A1-3B2. The AnB2 series are abundant in Caucasians but are absent in blacks and Asians. Conversely, the A0B1 allele is common in blacks but is not found in more than 1,700 Caucasian chromosomes. The data are compatible with a model in which recombination is more frequent than polymerase slippage at this locus. In orangutans, the RY(i) is present, but the sequence is markedly different. An A/B-type of pattern was discerned in which B differs from A by an additional six (AT) dinucleotides at the 3' end. In chimpanzees, the size of the RY(i) locus was greatly expanded, and the sequence showed a novel pattern of hypervariability in which there are many tandem repeats of the form (GT)n(AC)o(AT)p(GT)q(AT)s, where n, o, p, q, and s are different integers. The sequences of the factor IX intron 1 cryptic RY(i) in three primates provide perspective on the range of possible patterns of polymorphism. Analysis of the patterns suggests how the RY(i) can be conserved during evolution, while the precise sequence varies.