The phylogenetic relationships of chemoautotrophic endosymbionts in the gutless marine oligochaete Inanidrilus leukodermatus to chemoautotrophic ecto- and endosymbionts from other host phyla and to free-living bacteria were determined by comparative 16S rRNA sequence analysis. Fluorescent in situ hybridization confirmed that the 16S rRNA sequence obtained from these worms originated from the symbionts. The symbiont sequence is unique to I. leukodermatus. In phylogenetic trees inferred by both distance and parsimony methods, the oligochaete symbiont is peripherally associated with one of two clusters of chemoautotrophic symbionts that belong to the gamma subdivision of the Proteobacteria. The endosymbionts of this oligochaete form a monophyletic group with chemoautotrophic ectosymbionts of a marine nematode. The oligochaete and nematode symbionts are very closely related, although their hosts belong to separate, unrelated animal phyla. Thus, cospeciation between the nematode and oligochaete hosts and their symbionts could not have occurred. Instead, the similar geographic locations and habitats of the hosts may have influenced the establishment of these symbioses.