Although non-random patterns of synonymous codon usage are a prominent feature in the genomes of many organisms, the relatives roles of mutational biases and natural selection in maintaining codon bias remain a contentious issue. In some species, patterns of codon bias and empirical findings on the biology of translation suggest 'major codon preference', a balance among mutation pressure, genetic drift, and weak selection in favor of translationally superior codons. Population genetics theory makes testable predictions to distinguish such a model from a strictly mutational model of codon bias. Major codon preference predicts two fitness classes of synonymous DNA changes: 'preferred' mutations from non-major to major codons and 'unpreferred' changes in the opposite direction. An extension of current statistical methods is employed to reveal differences in the within and between species dynamics of preferred and unpreferred silent mutations in Drosophila simulans. In this lineage, codon bias appears to be maintained under roughly equal magnitudes of natural selection and genetic drift. In the sibling species, D. melanogaster, however, a reduction in N(e)s, the product of effective population size and selection coefficient, appears to have allowed a genome-wide reduction in codon bias.