High-resolution morphological studies of the cyst wall of Giardia spp. were performed using low-voltage scanning electron microscopy (LVSEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The cyst wall was composed of membranous and filamentous layers. The membranous layer consisted of an inner and an outer cyst membrane separated by a thin layer of cytoplasm. The filamentous layer contained individual filaments that ranged from 7 to 20 nm in diameter when measured by LVSEM, formed a dense meshwork with branches or interconnections, and were occasionally arranged on the surface in whorled patterns. Cysts of Giardia muris from mice, Giardia duodenalis from dogs, pigs, voles, beavers, muskrats, and humans, and Giardia psittaci from a bird (parakeet), possessed an essentially identical wall composed of filaments. Inducement of excystation in viable Giardia cysts produced a dramatic increase in the interfilament spacing over an entire cyst, but none was observed in heat-killed or chemically fixed control cysts. These results demonstrated that the cyst wall of Giardia spp. was composed of a complex arrangement of filaments, presumably formed during the process of encystment.