The complex flagellum of Campylobacter coli VC167 contains two highly related (98%) flagellin subunit proteins which are produced from two 92% homologous, tandemly orientated genes, flaA and flaB. Mutants expressing only flaA form a full-length flagellar filament that confers slightly less than wild-type motility to the bacterium. However, flagellin mutants expressing only flaB produce extremely short, truncated filaments, and are only slightly motile. We have shown that the presence of two essentially identical genes is advantageous, in that flaAflaB+ mutants become highly motile upon passage by an event which allows the production of a full length simple flagellar filament containing a single FlaA-FlaB chimeric flagellin protein. Furthermore, we have demonstrated that the reassortment of DNA that results in this chimeric protein can occur by two mechanisms: intragenomic recombination and transformation-mediated intergenomic recombination.