Fibroblast cell lines were developed from skin biopsies of eight species of wild-trapped rodents, one species of bat, and a group of genetically heterogeneous laboratory mice. Each cell line was tested in vitro for their resistance to six varieties of lethal stress, as well as for resistance to the nonlethal metabolic effects of the mitochondrial inhibitor rotenone and of culture at very low glucose levels. Standard linear regression of species-specific lifespan against each species mean stress resistance showed that longevity was associated with resistance to death induced by cadmium and hydrogen peroxide, as well as with resistance to rotenone inhibition. A multilevel regression method supported these associations, and suggested a similar association for resistance to heat stress. Regressions for resistance to cadmium, peroxide, heat, and rotenone remained significant after various statistical adjustments for body weight. In contrast, cells from longer-lived species did not show significantly greater resistance to ultraviolet light, paraquat, or the DNA alkylating agent methylmethanesulfonate. There was a strong correlation between species longevity and resistance to the metabolic effects of low-glucose medium among the rodent cell lines, but this test did not distinguish mice and rats from the much longer-lived little brown bat. These results are consistent with the idea that evolution of long-lived species may require development of cellular resistance to several forms of lethal injury, and provide justification for evaluation of similar properties in a much wider range of mammals and bird species.