Strains of fusobacteria (143) were examined by pyrolysis mass spectrometry (Py-MS) with a Horizon Instruments PYMS 200X. Fusobacterium necrogenes, F. necrophorum, F. nucleatum, F. mortiferum, F. varium, F. gonidiaformans, F. naviforme, F. russii and Leptotrichia buccalis were discriminated. Strains of fusobacteria isolated from tropical ulcers, although similar to F. mortiferum in conventional tests, were discriminated from each of these species in Py-MS. Identification of 416 spectra to species level agreed with conventional bacteriological methods in 91.8% of cases, was equivocal in 3.4% and disagreed in 4.8%. Classification based on pyrolysis data resolved groups largely corresponding to the recognised species. However, F. nucleatum strains were divided between two distinct groups. The tropical ulcer strains were resolved as a distinct homogeneous group. Py-MS is a rapid, inexpensive and convenient procedure for characterisation of bacteria, with the capacity for a high throughput of samples, although the initial cost of the apparatus is high.