Esterase phenotypes were used to characterise 25 populations of Meloidogyne spp. collected on bananas from different banana producing areas in Brazil, using a simplified technique for routine analysis. Meloidogyne javanica, M. incognita, M. arenaria, and Meloidogyne spp. were detected at percentages of 61.7, 32.2, 4.3 and 1.8, respectively. The Meloidogyne populations represented mixed species in 80% of the samples, M. javanica and M. incognita prevailing under field conditions. Genetic analyses were conducted using RAPD markers which provided, alone or in combination, reliable polymorphisms both between and within species. Based on the presence or absence of bands, RAPD analysis of the data resulted in clustering of species and isolates congruent with esterase phenotype characterisation. The intraspecific variability in M. javanica, M. incognita and M. arenaria represented 29.1, 19.5 and 40.2% of the polymorphic amplified fragments, respectively. A general lack of correlation was observed between banana cultivar group, geographical origin and differentiation of the nematodes.