An investigation was undertaken of the genetic diversity of Nodularia strains from the Baltic Sea and from Australian waters, together with the proposed type strain of Nodularia spumigena. The Nodularia strains were characterized by using a polyphasic approach, including RFLP of PCR-amplified 16S rRNA genes, 16S rRNA gene sequencing, Southern blotting of total DNA, repetitive extragenic palindromic- and enterobacterial repetitive intergenic consensus-PCR, ribotyping and phenotypic tests. With genotypic methods, the Nodularia strains were grouped into two clusters. The genetic groupings were supported by one phenotypic property: the ability to produce nodularin. In contrast, the cell sizes of the strains were not different in the two genetic clusters. 16S rRNA gene sequences indicated that all the Nodularia strains were closely related, despite their different origins. According to this study, two genotypes of Nodularia exist in the Baltic Sea. On the basis of the taxonomic definitions of Komarek et al. (Algol Stud 68, 1-25, 1993), the non-toxic type without gas vesicles fits the description of Nodularia sphaerocarpa, whereas the toxic type with gas vesicles resembles the species N. spumigena and Nodularia baltica.