A transposable element can be defined as a DNA sequence capable of moving to new sites in the genome. Such DNA sequences have been described in a wide range of organisms. The evolutionary processes affecting transposable elements can thus be divided into two categories: changes in sequence and changes in genomic location. As with other types of evolutionary change, the nature of the evolutionary process will be reflected in the extent and type of genetic variation existing in wild populations. Quantitative models of the evolution of transposable element sequences and positions will be outlined, and related to relevant data. The extent to which models designed to describe obvious transposable elements such as the mobile sequences of Drosophila are also applicable to interspersed repetitive DNAs from other species will be discussed.