To investigate the main forces controlling the containment of transposable elements (TE) in natural populations, we analyzed the copia, mdg1, and 412 elements in various populations of Drosophila melanogaster and D. simulans. A lower proportion of insertion sites on the X chromosome in comparison with the autosomes suggests that selection against the detrimental effects of TE insertions is the major force containing TE copies in populations of Drosophila. This selection effect hypothesis is strengthened by the absence of the negative correlation between recombinaiton rate and TE copy number along the chromosomes, which was expected under the alternative ectopic exchange model (selection against the deleterious rearrangements promoted by recombination between TE insertions). A cline in 412 copy number in relation to latitude was observed among the natural populations of D. simulans, with very high numbers existing in some local populations (around 60 copies in a sample from Canberra, Australia). An apparent absence of selection effects in this Canberra sample and a value of transposition rate equal to 1-2 x 10(-3) whatever the population and its copy number agree with the idea of recent but temporarily drastic TE movements in local populations. The high values of transposition rate in D. simulans clearly disfavor the hypothesis that the low amount of transposable elements in this species could result from a low transposition rate.