We have examined the presence of methylated adenine at GATC sequences (Dam phenotype) in the DNA of 23 eubacteria and 13 archaebacteria by using isoshizomer restriction enzymes. We have found a completely Dam+ phenotype in bacteria of nine genera related to the families Enterobacteriaceae, Parvobacteriaceae, and Vibrionaceae, and in the five cyanobacteria tested. We have found a partial Dam+ phenotype in the two archaebacteria Halobacterium saccharovorum and Methanobacterium sp. strain Ivanov. All of the other archaebacteria (three genera) and eubacteria (nine genera) tested were Dam-. Phylogenetic analysis, based on the evolutionary tree of Fox et al. (Science 209:457-463, 1980), indicates that dam methylation in the Escherichia coli lineage appeared recently in bacterial evolution and is restricted to a small range of closely related bacteria.