Twenty-three isolates of the widely distributed marine bacteria Alteromonas macleodii have been analysed by multilocus sequence analysis combined with phylogenetic and multivariate statistical analyses. The strains originated from the Pacific Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, English Channel, Black Sea and Thailand. Using the nucleotide sequences of nine loci for each of the 23 isolates, a robust identification was achieved of different clades within the single species. Strains generally clustered with the depth in the water column from which the isolate originated. Strains also showed more recombination with isolates from the same vicinity, suggesting that genetic exchange plays a role in diversification of planktonic marine prokaryotes. This study thus shows for the first time for a large set of isolates of a species of planktonic marine prokaryotes that multilocus sequence analysis overcomes the problems associated with the analysis of individual marker genes or presence of extensive recombination events. It can thus achieve intraspecific identification to the level of genotypes and, by comparison with relevant environmental data, ecotypes.