Twenty-two extremely halophilic aerobic archaeal strains were isolated from enrichments prepared from Dead Sea water samples collected 57 years ago. The isolates were phenotypically clustered into five different groups, and a representative from each group was chosen for further study. Almost the entire sequences of the 16S rRNA genes of these representatives, and of Haloarcula hispanica ATCC 33960, were determined to establish their phylogenetic positions. The sequences of these strains were compared to previously published sequences of 27 reference halophilic archaea (members of the family Halobacteriaceae) and two other archaea, Methanobacterium formicicum DSM 1312 and Methanospirillum hungatei DSM 864. Phylogenetic analysis using approximately 1,400 base comparisons of 16S rRNA-encoding gene sequences demonstrated that the five isolates clustered closely to species belonging to three different genera--Haloferax, Halobacterium, and Haloarcula. Strains E1 and E8 were closely related and identified as members of the species Haloferax volcanii, and strain E12 was closely related and identified as a member of the species Halobacterium salinarum. However, strains E2 and E11 clustered in the Haloarcula branch with Haloarcula hispanica as the closest relative at 98.9 and 98.8% similarity, respectively. Strains E2 and E11 could represent two new species of the genus Haloarcula. However, because strains of these two new species were isolated from a single source, they will not be named until additional strains are isolated from other sources and fully characterized.