The 17,191-bp mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of a Japanese colubrid snake, akamata (Dinodon semicarinatus), was cloned and sequenced. The snake mtDNA has some peculiar features that were found in our previous study using polymerase chain reaction: duplicate control regions that have completely identical sequences over 1 kbp, translocation of tRNALeu(UUR) gene, shortened TpsiC arm for most tRNA genes, and a pseudogene for tRNAPro. Phylogenetic analysis of amino acid sequences of protein genes suggested an unusually high rate of molecular evolution in the snake compared to other vertebrates. Southern hybridization experiments using mtDNAs purified from multiple akamata individuals showed that the duplicate state of the control region is not a transient or unstable feature found in a particular individual, but that it stably occurs in mitochondrial genomes of the species. This may, therefore, be regarded as an unprecedented example of stable functional redundancy in animal mtDNA. However, some of the examined individuals contain a rather scanty proportion of heteroplasmic mtDNAs with an organization of genes distinct from that of the major mtDNA. The gene organization of the minor mtDNA is in agreement with one of models that we present to account for the concerted evolution of duplicate control regions.