The 16S rDNA sequences of nine strains of green sulfur bacteria (Chlorobiaceae) were determined and compared to the four known sequences of Chlorobiaceae and to sequences representative for all eubacterial phyla. The sequences of the Chlorobiaceae strains were consistent with the secondary structure model proposed earlier for Chlorobium vibrioforme strain 6030. Similarity values > 90.1% and Knuc values < 0.11 indicate a close phylogenetic relatedness among the green sulfur bacteria. As a group, these bacteria represent an isolated branch within the eubacterial radiation. In Chlorobiaceae, a similar morphology does not always reflect a close phylogenetic relatedness. While ternary fission is a morphological trait of phylogenetic significance, gas vesicle formation occurs also in distantly related species. Pigment composition is not an indicator of phylogenetic relatedness since very closely related species contain different bacteriochlorophylls and carotenoids. Two different molecular fingerprinting techniques for the rapid differentiation of Chlorobiaceae species were investigated. The 16S rDNA fragments of several species could not be separated by denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis. In contrast, all strains investigated during the present work gave distinct banding patterns when dispersed repetitive DNA sequences were used as targets in PCR. The latter technique is, therefore, well suited for the rapid screening of isolated pure cultures of green sulfur bacteria.