Despite the importance of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in the majority of terrestrial ecosystems, their ecology, genetics, and evolution are poorly understood, partly due to difficulties associated with detecting and identifying species. We explored the inter- and intraspecies variations of the 18S rRNA genes of the genus Gigaspora to assess the use of this marker for the discrimination of Gigaspora isolates and of Gigasporaceae populations from environmental samples. Screening of 48 Gigaspora isolates by PCR-denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) revealed that the V3-V4 region of the 18S rRNA gene contained insufficient variation to discriminate between different Gigaspora species. In contrast, the patterns of 18S ribosomal DNA (rDNA) heterogeneity within the V9 region of this marker could be used for reliable identification of all recognized species within this genus. PCR-DGGE patterns provided insight into some putative misidentifications and could be used to differentiate geographic isolates of G. albida, G. gigantea, and G. margarita but not G. rosea. Two major clusters were apparent based upon PCR-DGGE ribotype patterns, one containing G. albida, G. candida, G. ramisporophora, and G. rosea and the other containing G. decipiens and G. margarita. Dissection of the DGGE patterns by cloning, DGGE screening, and sequencing confirmed these groupings and revealed that some ribotypes were shared across species boundaries. Of the 48 isolates examined, only two displayed any spore-to-spore variation, and these exceptions may be indicative of coisolation of more than one species or subspecies within these cultures. Two Brazilian agricultural soils were also analyzed with a Gigasporaceae-specific nested PCR approach, revealing a dominance of G. margarita within this family.