Comparative sequence analysis of 40% of the genomes from two prototype Streptococcus thermophilus bacteriophages (lytic group I phage phi Sfi19 and the cos site containing temperate phage phi Sfi21) suggested two processes in the evolution of their genomes. In a first evolutionarily distant phase the basic genome structure was apparently constituted by modular exchanges. Over the 17-kb-long DNA segment analyzed in the present report, we observed clusters of genes with similarity to genes from Leuconostoc oenos phage L10, Lactococcus lactis phage BK5-T, and Streptococcus pneumoniae phage Dp-1. A chimeric protein was predicted for orf 1291 which showed similarity to both phage BK5-T and phage Dp-1 proteins. The very large orf 1626 gene product showed similarity to two adjacent genes from the Lactobacillus delbrueckii phage LL-H and further phage proteins (Lactococcus lactis, Bacillus subtills). The similarities were localized to distinct parts of this apparently multifunctional protein. The putative phi Sfi19 lysin showed similarity to both lysins of phages and cellular enzymes. In a second, evolutionarily more recent, phase the S, thermophilus phage genomes apparently diversified by point mutations and small deletions/insertions. Over the investigated 17-kb DNA region phi Sfi19 differed from phi Sfi21 by 10% base pair changes, the majority of which were point mutations (mainly at the third codon position), while a third of the base pair differences were contributed by small deletions/insertions. The base pair changes were unevenly distributed. Over the Leuconostoc phage-related DNA the change rate was high, while over the Lactococcus and S. pneumoniae phage-related DNA the change rate was low. We speculate that the degree of base pair change could provide relative time scales for the modular exchange reactions observed in S. thermophilus phages.