We isolated 28 strains of 'Spumella-like' flagellates from different freshwater and soil habitats in Austria, People's Republic of China, Nepal, New Zealand, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Hawaii by use of a modified filtration-acclimatization method. 'Spumella-like' flagellates were found in all of the samples and were often among the dominant bacterivorous flagellates in the respective environments. The small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA) gene sequence of the isolates was determined and aligned with previously published sequences of members belonging to the Chrysophyceae sensu stricto. Phylogenetic analysis of the 28 new sequences confirmed their position within the Chrysophyceae sensu stricto and positioned them within different clades. Most of the sequences grouped within clade C and formed several subclusters separated from each other by green taxa including flagellates belonging to Ochromonas, Dinobryon, Poterioochromonas and others. All soil isolates clustered together (subcluster C1) with the soil strain Spumella elongata and the undescribed soil strain 'Spumella danica'. Aquatic isolates were affiliated with at least two branches (C2 and C3). Sequence similarity to the closest related member of the Chrysophyceae ranged between 92% and 99.6%, sequence divergence among the 'Spumella-like' flagellates was as high as 10%. We conclude that (i) the 'Spumella-like' flagellates are a diverse group both in terms of sequence dissimilarity between isolates and in terms of the number of genotypes, (ii) Spumella and Ochromonas are polyphyletic, and (iii) based on the SSU rRNA gene no biogeographical restriction of certain branches could be observed even though different ecotypes may be represented by the same genotype.