Molecular cytogenetic methods have been used to study the controversial phylogenetic relationships between the species Dasypyrum villosum (L.) Candargy (2n=2x=14) and D. breviaristatum (Lindb. f.) Frederiksen (2n=4x=28). Using total genomic DNA from the two species as probes for in situ hybridization to chromosomes, we found that the pericentromeric regions of the chromosome arms of both species are similar, while distal regions show substantial differences. Two dispersed repetitive DNA sequences were isolated: pDbKB45 is distributed along the chromosomes but amplified in the subtelomeric regions of D. breviaristatum chromosomes, while pDbKB49, in both species, is less amplified in terminal regions. Size-separated restriction enzyme digests of DNA showed many repetitive fragments, but few in common between the two species. After probing Southern transfers with D. breviaristatum genomic DNA, all lanes showed similar hybridization patterns although one extra small band was evident in the D. breviaristatum lanes. In contrast, probing with D. villosum DNA showed very substantial differences between the two species. Genomic in situ hybridization to meiotic metaphases from an interspecific hybrid showed seven bivalents of D. breviaristatum origin and seven univalents from D. villosum. We also analysed the physical organization of 5S rDNA, 18S-25S rDNA and a tandemly repeated sequence from rye. Our data support an autotetraploid origin for D. breviaristatum, but its genome and that of D. villosum show extensive differences, so the tetraploid is unlikely to be directly derived from D. villosum.