Some classes of marine phytoplankton are believed to be more tolerant of high concentrations of trace metals than others, but the results of experimental tests of this hypothesis are ambiguous. Eleven species of phytoplankton representing five classes were grown in Aquil medium containing Cd concentrations between 10−8 and 10−5 M ([Cd2+]= 10−9.85 to 10−6.84 M), and growth rates and intracellular concentrations of Cd, C, N, and S were measured. The mean Cd2+ concentration (pCd50) that reduced the growth rate of each species to 50% of its maximum varied by 2.5 orders of magnitude, from 10−6.23 for Emiliania huxleyi to 10−8.79 for Synechococcus sp. Taxonomic trends in Cd resistance were not apparent in these data. Cadmium quotas (mol Cd·L−1 cell volume) were lowest in species of Bacillariophyceae (ANOVA, P < 0.001), suggesting that they might regulate Cd transport differently than other taxa. Cellular S:C molar ratios increased in four of seven phytoplankton grown at high pCd (7.37–6.84) compared to low Cd ion concentrations (no added Cd), a result of increases in S·L−1 cell volume. Nitrogen:carbon molar ratios were also higher in Cd-exposed phytoplankton, as changes in N and S were highly correlated (r= 0.98, P < 0.0001). In two species that were examined, S:C ratios increased as a linear function of increasing Cd concentration. The results demonstrate large variability in Cd resistance among phytoplankton that is primarily a function of interspecific differences in Cd detoxification.