By subjecting a large sample of natural isolates of N. intermedia to prolonged serial subculturing, 26 cytoplasmic variants have been identified. These variants show senescence, and finally death at some strain-specific point in the subculture series. All senescent strains are from the Hawaiian archipelago, where their incidence in natural populations is high. Senescent cultures can be female-fertile. Random ascospore analyses show that (i) senescence is maternally inherited; (ii) different stages of senescence give different proportions of senescent progeny; and (iii) ascospores from one cross show different degrees of senescence. These results indicate that senescence is determined by a genetic factor which re sides in the cytoplasm. This factor promotes instability of the cytoplasm, resulting initially in cytoplasmic heterogeneity shown by ascus and conidium sampling, and finally in death. Molecular studies to be published elsewhere show that the progression through senescence to death is correlated with the occurence of abnormalities in cytochrome content and mitochondrial DNA. The Hawaiian word kalilo (dying), symbolised [kal], is proposed to denote these cytoplasms.