We report here the isolation of a tandem duplication of a small region of the third chromosome of Drosophila melanogaster containing the Cu-Zn superoxide dismutase (cSOD) gene. This duplication is associated with a dosage-dependent increase in cSOD activity. The biological consequences of hypermorphic levels of cSOD in genotypes carrying this duplication have been investigated under diverse conditions of oxygen stress imposed by acute exposure to ionizing radiation, chronic exposure to paraquat, and the normoxia of standard laboratory culture. We find that a 50% increase in cSOD activity above the normal diploid level confers increased resistance to ionizing radiation and, in contrast, confers decreased resistance to the superoxide-generating agent paraquat. The duplication is associated with a minor increase in adult life-span under conditions of normoxia. These results reveal important features of the biological function of cSOD within the context of the overall oxygen defense system of Drosophila.