The need for comparative studies of iridoviruses to elucidate the relationships between them has been well appreciated. Sixteen iridoviruses, including type species from each of the four recognized genera of the Iridoviridae, were compared by restriction endonuclease characterization, hybridization to the major structural protein (MSP) gene of an invertebrate iridescent virus (IV) isolate at various stringencies, PCR amplification of the MSP gene region and by dot-blot hybridization studies. The results broadly supported previous serological studies. The vertebrate iridoviruses, frog virus 3 (genus ) and flounder lymphocystivirus (genus ), appeared distinct from one another and from the invertebrate isolates. Naming and numbering invertebrate IV isolates according to history and host is no longer useful since IVs infect a number of species. A revised system, involving names based on the geographical origin of the isolate is proposed, in line with other virus families. The large IVs of invertebrates represented by Vero Beach IV (previously IV3 or mosquito IV; genus ) showed little similarity to any other IVs. Members of the genus , the small invertebrate IVs, fell into three distinct groups of interrelated isolates. The largest group, containing the Plowden (IV1), Tia (IV2), Nelson (IV9, IV10 and IV18), Aberystwyth (IV22), Srinagar (IV24), Fort Collins (IV29) and Stoneville (IV30) iridoviruses, is named the Polyiridovirus complex. The Plowden iridovirus (IV1) is suggested as type species for this complex given the data available on its molecular biology. Based on previously published data, Timaru (IV16 and IV19) and Uitenhage (IV23) iridoviruses are also assigned to this complex. The second but smaller group is named the Oligoiridovirus complex, which includes Dazaifu (IV6) as the type species and contains Ntondwe (IV21 and IV28) on a tentative basis. Riverside IV (IV31) was distinct from both of the other groups, and is proposed as a third complex, Crustaceoiridovirus.


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