Novel 16S rDNA clones which possibly constitute a sister clade from the two known archaeal lineages, Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota, were found in paddy soil environments. Overall signature sequences showed that the clone sequences shared a majority of signature sequence features with the Archaea and Eukarya. However, there were at least nine nucleotides which distinguished the novel clones from the domains Archaea and Eukarya. Phylogenetic trees, drawn by maximum-parsimony, neighbour-joining and maximum-likelihood methods, also supported the unique phylogenetic position of the clones. Both signature sequence and phylogenetic analyses strongly suggest that the novel organisms constitute a new group and their phylogenetic positions are distant from the Crenarchaeota and Euryarchaeota. A specific primer set was designed to detect the presence of the novel group of organisms in terrestrial environments. Specific DNA fragments were amplified from all paddy soil DNAs, suggesting that the novel organisms are widely distributed in rice paddy fields in Japan.