Microsporidia of the genus Dictyocoela are parasites of gammarid amphipod Crustacea. They typically exhibit low virulence and efficient vertical transmission and at least some strains are capable of feminising their hosts. Sequencing of a region of the 16S rDNA of Dictyocoela spp. from various gammarid host species and localities in Europe and northern Asia indicates that Dictyocoela is genetically diverse and that different strains predominate in different host species. However, the presence of intermediate sequences casts doubt upon previous attempts to describe Dictyocoela spp. on the basis of rDNA divergence alone. Phylogenetic analysis provides little support for coevolution between gammarids and Dictyocoela. Furthermore, observations of heavily infected individuals, together with genetic evidence of recombination, suggest that some strains of Dictyocoela may be horizontally transmitted and are sexually reproducing. These findings suggest that Dictyocoela may be phenotypically, as well as genotypically, diverse, with the potential to exhibit a range of different interactions with its host populations. (C) 2011 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.