Abstract Background Bordetella petrii is the only environmental species hitherto found among the otherwise host-restricted and pathogenic members of the genus Bordetella. Phylogenetically, it connects the pathogenic Bordetellae and environmental bacteria of the genera Achromobacter and Alcaligenes, which are opportunistic pathogens. B. petrii strains have been isolated from very different environmental niches, including river sediment, polluted soil, marine sponges and a grass root. Recently, clinical isolates associated with bone degenerative disease or cystic fibrosis have also been described. Results In this manuscript we present the results of the analysis of the completely annotated genome sequence of the B. petrii strain DSMZ12804. B. petrii has a mosaic genome of 5,287,950 bp harboring numerous mobile genetic elements, including seven large genomic islands. Four of them are highly related to the clc element of Pseudomonas knackmussii B13, which encodes genes involved in the degradation of aromatics. Though being an environmental isolate, the sequenced B. petrii strain also encodes proteins related to virulence factors of the pathogenic Bordetellae, including the filamentous hemagglutinin, which is a major colonization factor of B. pertussis, and the master virulence regulator BvgAS. However, it lacks all known toxins of the pathogenic Bordetellae. Conclusion The genomic analysis suggests that B. petrii represents an evolutionary link between free-living environmental bacteria and the host-restricted obligate pathogenic Bordetellae. Its remarkable metabolic versatility may enable B. petrii to thrive in very different ecological niches.