We have used a PCR assay to screen 404 insects and related arthropods for mariner elements using primers corresponding to amino acids conserved between the mariner elements of Drosophila mauritiana and a moth, Hyalophora cecropia. Potential mariner elements were detected in sixty-three species, representing ten insect orders as well as a centipede and a mite. Phylogenetic analysis of the PCR fragment sequences from thirty species identifies five major subfamilies of mariners. Many species have representatives of multiple subfamilies in their genomes, and the Medfly is an extreme example with representatives of four subfamilies. Two instances of recent horizontal transfer of mariner elements include at least three species each. The widespread but sporadic distribution of mariner elements suggests they are excellent candidates for development as transformation vectors for non-drosophilids.