The genus Shewanella has been studied since 1931 with regard to a variety of topics of relevance to both applied and environmental microbiology. Recent years have seen the introduction of a large number of new Shewanella-like isolates, necessitating a coordinated review of the genus. In this work, the phylogenetic relationships among known shewanellae were examined using a battery of morphological, physiological, molecular and chemotaxonomic characterizations. This polyphasic taxonomy takes into account all available phenotypic and genotypic data and integrates them into a consensus classification. Based on information generated from this study and obtained from the literature, a scheme for the identification of Shewanella species has been compiled. Key phenotypic characteristics were sulfur reduction and halophilicity. Fatty acid and quinone profiling were used to impart an additional layer of information. Molecular characterizations employing small-subunit 16S rDNA sequences were at the limits of resolution for the differentiation of species in some cases. As a result, DNA-DNA hybridization and sequence analyses of a more rapidly evolving molecule (gyrB gene) were performed. Species-specific PCR probes were designed for the gyrB gene and used for the rapid screening of closely related strains. With this polyphasic approach, in addition to the ten described Shewanella species, two new species, Shewanella oneidensis and 'Shewanella pealeana', were recognized; Shewanella oneidensis sp. nov. is described here for the first time.