Galileo is a foldback transposable element that has been implicated in the generation of two polymorphic chromosomal inversions in Drosophila buzzatii. Analysis of the inversion breakpoints led to the discovery of two additional elements, called Kepler and Newton, sharing sequence and structural similarities with Galileo. Here, we describe in detail the molecular structure of these three elements, on the basis of the 13 copies found at the inversion breakpoints plus 10 additional copies isolated during this work. Similarly to the foldback elements described in other organisms, these elements have long inverted terminal repeats, which in the case of Galileo possess a complex structure and display a high degree of internal variability between copies. A phylogenetic tree built with their shared sequences shows that the three elements are closely related and diverged ∼10 million years ago. We have also analyzed the abundance and chromosomal distribution of these elements in D. buzzatii and other species of the repleta group by Southern analysis and in situ hybridization. Overall, the results suggest that these foldback elements are present in all the buzzatti complex species and may have played an important role in shaping their genomes. In addition, we show that recombination rate is the main factor determining the chromosomal distribution of these elements. Copyright © 2005 by the Genetics Society of America.