Recombinant DNA clones have been isolated that contain 80 kb of the beta-globin complex from the deer mouse, Peromyscus maniculatus. Comparisons of this complex with that from the laboratory mouse, Mus domesticus (with an order 5'-Hbby, Hbb-bhO, Hbb-bhl, Hbb-bh2, Hbb-bh3, Hbb-bl, Hbb-b2 3') highlight organizational trends in the beta-globin complex since the two species diverged. Unlike other mammals studied thus far, the deer mouse possesses three adult genes. Partial sequence analysis indicates that each of the three adult genes is intact and hence may be functional. Hybridization of one of the two Mus pseudogenes, Hbb-bh3, to genomic blots from Peromyscus reveals that it has a homologous counterpart in Peromyscus. Homologous genes to the two gamma-like Mus genes, Hbb-bhO and Hbb-bhl, are also found in Peromyscus. The strong hybridization between the Hbb-bhl genes and significant nucleotide similarity between the Hbb-bhO genes suggest that both pairs are important for the ontogeny of these mice although no known product has been identified for the Hbb-bhO genes. The presence of Hbb-bhO and Hbb-bhl in Peromyscus suggests that the duplication that created this related gene set occurred before the two lineages diverged. A single gene for Hbb-y has been isolated from Peromyscus. The adult region in Peromyscus has undergone significant divergence from the same region in Mus, having three rather than two adult genes, the acquisition of at least 15 kb of extra DNA relative to Mus, and possibly the loss of the Hbb-bh2 pseudogene. The nonadult region of the complex, in contrast, contains the same set of genes apparently distributed over the same amount of DNA as in the Mus beta-globin complex. This observation suggests that the embryonic region of the complex is more evolutionarily stable than the adult region.