Most species of the Drosophila genus and other Diptera are polymorphic for paracentric inversions. A common observation is that successful inversions are of intermediate size. We test here the hypothesis that the selected property is the recombination length of inversions, not their physical length. If so, physical length of successful inversions should be negatively correlated with recombination rate across species. This prediction was tested by a comprehensive statistical analysis of inversion size and recombination map length in 12 Diptera species for which appropriate data are available. We found that (1) there is a wide variation in recombination map length among species; (2) physical length of successful inversions varies greatly among species and is inversely correlated with the species recombination map length; and (3) neither the among-species variation in inversion length nor the correlation are observed in unsuccessful inversions. The clear differences between successful and unsuccessful inversions point to natural selection as the most likely explanation for our results. Presumably the selective advantage of an inversion increases with its length, but so does its detrimental effect on fertility due to double crossovers. Our analysis provides the strongest and most extensive evidence in favor of the notion that the adaptive value of inversions stems from their effect on recombination.