Abstract The ability of three Porphyromonas spp., seven Prevotella spp., seven Fusobacterium spp. and two related Bacteroides spp. ( B. levii and B. macacae) to degrade an extensive range of synthetic endo-, amino- and diamino peptidase substrates linked to the fluorescent leaving group 7-amido-4-methylcoumarin (NHMec) was investigated. Many more species than was previously recognized exhibited peptidase activities, albeit at lower levels than those already described for Porphyromonas gingivalis. Detection of chymotrypsin-like activity was dependent on which of three NHMec-linked substrates was used, but all species exhibited degradative activity with at least one of these substrates. Elastase-like activity was detected in all species though not all species reacted with each of the elastase substrates. Glycylprolyl peptidase activity was detected in all of the species tested with the exception of F. mortiferum, F. gonidiaformans, F. naviforme and F. necrophorum. While the detection of peptidase activities does not appear to be useful for the differentiation of species within the genera Bacteroides and Prevotella, its ability to differentiate species of the genus Porphyromonas or Fosobacterium further investigation.