Specimens of the planktic foraminiferal morphospecies, Globigerina bulloides, Turborotalita quinqueloba, Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (dextral) and Globigerinita uvula, were collected along a subarctic Atlantic transect. Partial sequences of the small subunit (SSU) ribosomal (r) RNA gene were obtained and a distance-based foraminiferal phylogeny constructed. The low latitude morphospecies, Globigerina falconensis, was included to improve within cluster resolution. G. bulloides, G. falconensis and T. quinqueloba cluster together as a distinct group within the molecular phylogeny. The diversification of these three morphospecies from their common ancestor is clearly later than the main planktic spinose radiation, consistent with current interpretations of the fossil record. G. bulloides and G. falconensis are highly divergent from one another, supporting palaeontological and biological evidence that they are separate species. N. pachyderma (dextral) clusters with Neogloboquadrina dutertrei within the benthic and non-spinose planktic region of the tree. G. uvula also clusters within the benthic and non-spinose planktic region of the tree, adjacent to Globigerinita glutinata, a member of the same genus, though resolution is too low to provide evidence of a sister-taxon relationship. The Globigerina bulloides and Turborotalita quinqueloba morphospecies comprise a complex of distinct SSU rDNA genetic types. These fall into two groups, representing high and low latitude genotypes. Along the subarctic transect, G. bulloides and T. quinqueloba were each represented by two distinct genotypes. Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (dextral) and Globigerinita uvula were each represented by a single genotype. Genotypes of a morphospecies exhibit distinctive and different distribution patterns. In the case of Globigerina bulloides, the genotype distribution is suggestive of differing adaptation. However, the Turborotalita quinqueloba genotype distribution was complicated by their co-existence in the same water column throughout the eastern sector. Further investigation will be required to determine whether they occupy a different niche within the water column. Although only T. quinqueloba Type IIa was found in the western region, sampling density was low and inconclusive. The Neogloboquadrina pachyderma (dextral) genotype was found across the entire transect. Further investigation of genotype distribution and genotype/habitat relationships could provide new high-resolution proxies for past oceanographic/climate reconstructions. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.