Classification of families of hypnobryalean mosses into the Hypnales, Leucodontales, and Hookeriales has been taxonomically difficult. Several researchers have sequenced different genes for independent phylogenetic studies of these three pleurocarp groups. Our goal is to summarize available molecular data and compile the largest data set to infer phylogenetic relationships among families as basis for classification at ordinal level. Sequences of rbcL, trnL-F, and rps4 loci for 38 exemplars of most families of Hypnales, Leucodontales, and Hookeriales were analyzed to evaluate whether or not each of the three orders is monophyletic. Cladistic analyses of combined sequences, using five taxa in the Bryales as outgroups, reveal a robust clade (decay > 5) including all hypnobryalean pleurocarps. Within this group, one clade (decay = 2) includes only taxa of the Hookeriales, and is sister to a large monophyletic group (Hypnales sensu lato) containing all other taxa (decay = 2) previously in the Leucodontales and Hypnales. These relationships suggest that the ordinal level taxonomy needs to be reconsidered since major lineages detected do not correspond to the traditional Leucodontales or Hypnales. These two orders are not supported by any molecular evidence from rbcL, trnL-F, or rps4, either analyzed singly or in different combinations. Additionally, present results indicate the need for changes to the current system of three suborders of Hypnales and four of the Leucodontales. Phylogenetic reconstructions based on molecular data emphasize the need for a re-examination of the taxonomic relevance of morphological characters and corroborate previous interpretations of sporophytic morphological similarities as multiple transitions to similar solutions to epiphytism among the pleurocarps.
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