As an initial study of the influence of transposable DNA elements on life history traits, and as a model system for estimating the impact of somatic genetic damage on longevity, the effect of P DNA element movement in somatic cells on adult lifespan was measured in Drosophila melanogaster males. Lifespan was significantly reduced in males that contained the somatically active P[ry+ delta 2-3](99B) element and 17, 4, 3, but not just a single P element. Furthermore, there appears to be a direct correlation between the number of transposing P elements and the amount of lifespan reduction. This reduction in lifespan observed in males with somatically active P elements is probably due to genetic damage in embryos, larvae and pupae from P-element excisions and insertions, leading to changes in gene structure and regulation, chromosome breakage, and subsequent cell death in adults. This hypothesis is supported in this study by a significant increase in recessive sex-linked lethal mutations in the same males that had reduced lifespans and by the previous observation of chromosome breakage in somatic cells of similar males. The evolutionary implications of these results are discussed, including the possible influence of somatic DNA transpositions on fitness and other life history traits.