Abstract Diversity based on ribosomal RNA gene-restriction endonuclease digest patterns was detected amongst 42 strains of Campylobacter jejuni and 18 strains of C. coli including representatives of 53 different Penner serotypes. HaeIII ribopatterns were coded for numerical analysis which showed that all except two were different including those of several strains of the same serotype (P2 and P20). At the 30% similarity level, four groupings were formed in the analysis of which three corresponded to C. jejuni, C. coli and C. lari phenotypes respectively. Eight strains (13%) were atypical as their phenotypic and ribopattern associations did not correspond. Ribopattern fragments of 3.0, 5.0 and 9.3 kb were characteristic of the majority of C. jejuni, whereas 1.5, 2.2-, 2.3- and 4.7-kb fragments were commonly present in C. coli. These fragments provided novel species-specific markers. We conclude that HaeIII ribotyping was as discriminatory as Penner serotyping of C. jejuni and C. coli and may even provide a basis for distinguishing between strains of the same serotype and for identifying new groups within the thermophilic campylobacters.