Animal mitochondrial DNA has proved a valuable marker in intraspecific systematic studies. However, if nucleotide sequence heterogeneity exists at the individual level, its usefulness will be much reduced. This study demonstrates that the presence of highly conserved non-coding mitochondrial sequences in the nuclear genome of Schistocerca gregaria greatly impairs the use of mtDNA in population genetic studies. Caution is called for in other organisms; and it seems necessary to check for conserved nuclear copies of mitochondrial sequences before launching into a large scale analysis of populations using mtDNA as a genetic marker. Experimental procedures are suggested for this purpose.