The vertebrate mitochondrial genome is highly conserved in size and gene content. Among the chordates there appears to be one basic gene arrangement, but rearrangements in the mitochondrial gene order of the avian lineages have indicated that the mitochondrial genome may be more variable than once thought. Different gene orders in marsupials and eutherian mammals leave the ancestral mammalian order in some doubt. We have investigated the mitochondrial gene order in the platypus (Ornithorhynchus anatinus), a representative of the third major group of mammals, to determine which mitochondrial gene arrangement is ancestral in mammals. We have found that the platypus mtDNA conforms to the basic chordate gene arrangement, common to fish, amphibians, and eutherian mammals, indicating that this arrangement was the original mammalian arrangement, and that the unusual rearrangements observed in the avians and marsupials are probably lineage-specific.