Cylindrospermopsis raciborskii is a planktonic freshwater cyanobacterium that has become increasingly prevalent in tropical and temperate water bodies world-wide. This species is of concern from a water-quality perspective because of its known ability to produce toxins that can affect the health of humans and other animals. This study investigates genetic vari-ation between strains of C. raciborskii isolated from freshwater rivers and reservoirs in Australia, Brazil, Germany, Hungary, Portugal and the USA. Strains were first characterized by analysis of their 16S rRNA gene nucleotide sequences and were found to have a sequence divergence of 99.1%. A phylogenetic tree, constructed using the 16S rRNA gene sequences showed that strains grouped into Australian, European and North/South American phylotypes. To investigate further the observed separation of strains into geographically distinct groups, we applied a cyanobacterium-specific short tandem repeat sequence technique, HIP1. An electrophoretic comparison of the HIP1 polymerase chain reaction products showed clear distinctions between the C. raciborskii strains. A phylogenetic tree, based on the repeat element banding patterns, also revealed three distinct groups of C. raciborskii strains. The first group consisted of strains from the USA and Brazil; the second comprised European strains from Germany, Hungary and Portugal; and the third were strains from Australia. In general, between-country variation was greater than within-country variation, indicating that this fingerprinting technique can successfully distinguish C. raciborskii strains taken from different global locations. The relationship between toxicity and the observed HIP1 polymerase chain reaction fingerprint profiles was less clear, although it is interesting to note that of the strains analysed in this study, only Australian strains are known to produce cylindrospermopsin and only Brazilian strains have been reported to produce paralytic shellfish poisoning toxins.