Recombinant inbred (RI) mouse strains were developed from reciprocal crosses between two inbred strains differing in the proportion of fertilized ova (CBA, 100%; KE, 77%), to analyse the underlying factors. A correlation (r = 0.83, P < 0.01) between fertilization efficiency within 22 RI strains and after mating RI females with KE males proved that oocyte quality was involved. The following oocyte parameters were analysed in RI and progenitor strains: time of meiotic maturation, rapidity of enzymatic removal of egg investments, and proportion of fertilized ova with supplementary spermatozoa in the perivitelline space. Among the RI strains, high incidence of supplementary spermatozoa was correlated with lower efficiency of fertilization (r = ?0.58, P < 0.05) and with slow meiotic maturation (r = ?64, P < 0.01), suggesting that delayed maturation may affect oocyte ability of being fertilized by the first penetrating spermatozoon. However, significant correlations were also found between characters which coexist within the progenitor strains, but are not likely to be physiologically related; this suggests that RI strains have inherited large blocks of progenitor genomes, not disrupted by recombination. The strain distribution pattern (SDP) of the analysed traits revealed CBA-like, KE-like, and intermediate phenotypes, indicating that they are polygenically determined. No linkages were found between the studied traits and 12 enzymatic markers. However, the SDP for fertilization efficiency showed a preponderance of non-matching strains (15/19) in relation to agouti locus; the known instability of this chromosome region makes it possible that a putative linkage was disrupted by recombination when RI strains were created.