BACKGROUNDThe entomopathogenic fungi of the genus Beauveria are cosmopolitan with a variety of different insect hosts. The two most important species, B. bassiana and B. brongniartii, have already been used as biological control agents of pests in agriculture and as models for the study of insect host - pathogen interactions. Mitochondrial (mt) genomes, due to their properties to evolve faster than the nuclear DNA, to contain introns and mobile elements and to exhibit extended polymorphisms, are ideal tools to examine genetic diversity within fungal populations and genetically identify a species or a particular isolate. Moreover, mt intergenic region can provide valuable phylogenetic information to study the biogeography of the fungus.RESULTSThe complete mt genomes of B. bassiana (32,263 bp) and B. brongniartii (33,920 bp) were fully analysed. Apart from a typical gene content and organization, the Beauveria mt genomes contained several introns and had longer intergenic regions when compared with their close relatives. The phylogenetic diversity of a population of 84 Beauveria strains -mainly B. bassiana (n = 76) - isolated from temperate, sub-tropical and tropical habitats was examined by analyzing the nucleotide sequences of two mt intergenic regions (atp6-rns and nad3-atp9) and the nuclear ITS1-5.8S-ITS2 domain. Mt sequences allowed better differentiation of strains than the ITS region. Based on mt and the concatenated dataset of all genes, the B. bassiana strains were placed into two main clades: (a) the B. bassiana s. l. and (b) the "pseudobassiana". The combination of molecular phylogeny with criteria of geographic and climatic origin showed for the first time in entomopathogenic fungi, that the B. bassiana s. l. can be subdivided into seven clusters with common climate characteristics.CONCLUSIONSThis study indicates that mt genomes and in particular intergenic regions provide molecular phylogeny tools that combined with criteria of geographic and climatic origin can subdivide the B. bassiana s.l. entomopathogenic fungi into seven clusters with common climate characteristics.