Macaque monkeys (Macaca fascicularis) were introduced to the island of Mauritius approximately 400 years ago. This study compares the mitochondrial DNA of macaques on Mauritius with those from Indonesia and the Philippines. The goal is to measure the amount of evolutionary change that has occurred in this isolated population over 400 years, and to address questions regarding the origin of the Mauritian founders. Amplification of the control region of the mitochondrial genome via the polymerase chain reaction yielded an 1800 base pair DNA fragment which was surveyed for variation using restriction endonucleases. Fifty-two macaques were separated into 17 haplotypes by mapping the restriction sites. No haplotypes were shared among the three populations, and only two closely related haplotypes appeared in the Mauritian sample. Nucleotide variation in the mitochondrial DNA in the Mauritian sample was 10-fold less than the Indonesian and Filipino samples. In contrast, allozyme data estimates of genetic diversity on Mauritius are similar to populations from the ancestral range. The evidence of the more severe bottleneck as measured by mitochondrial data may be explained in part by almost exclusive male dispersal in this species, and may support models of founder events in which rapid population growth prevents substantial loss of nuclear variation. The mitochondrial evidence supports the morphologically and historically based hypothesis that the original founders came from Indonesia.