The current taxonomic classification of Chlamydia is based on limited phenotypic, morphologic and genetic criteria. This classification does not take into account recent analysis of the ribosomal operon or recently identified obligately intracellular organisms that have a chlamydia-like developmental cycle of replication. Neither does it provide a systematic rationale for identifying new strains. In this study, phylogenetic analyses of the 16S and 23S rRNA genes are presented with corroborating genetic and phenotypic information to show that the order Chlamydiales contains at least four distinct groups at the family level and that within the Chlamydiaceae are two distinct lineages which branch into nine separate clusters. In this report a reclassification of the order Chlamydiales and its current taxa is proposed. This proposal retains currently known strains with > 90% 16S rRNA identity in the family Chlamydiaceae and separates other chlamydia-like organisms that have 80-90% 16S rRNA relatedness to the Chlamydiaceae into new families. Chlamydiae that were previously described as 'Candidatus Parachlamydia acanthamoebae' Amann, Springer, Schönhuber, Ludwig, Schmid, Müller and Michel 1997, become members of Parachlamydiaceae fam. nov., Parachlamydia acanthamoebae gen. nov., sp. now. 'Simkania' strain Z becomes the founding member of Simkaniaceae fam. nov., Simkania negevensis gen. nov., sp. nov. The fourth group, which includes strain WSU 86-1044, was left unnamed. The Chlamydiaceae, which currently has only the genus Chlamydia, is divided into two genera, Chlamydia and Chlamydophila gen. nov. Two new species, Chlamydia muridarum sp. nov. and Chlamydia suis sp. nov., join Chlamydia trachomatis in the emended genus Chlamydia. Chlamydophila gen. nov. assimilates the current species, Chlamydia pecorum, Chlamydia pneumoniae and Chlamydia psittaci, to form Chlamydophila pecorum comb. nov., Chlamydophila pneumoniae comb. nov. and Chlamydophila psittaci comb. nov. Three new Chlamydophila species are derived from Chlamydia psittaci: Chlamydophila abortus gen. nov., sp. nov., Chlamydophila caviae gen. nov., sp. nov. and Chlamydophila felis gen. nov., sp. nov. Emended descriptions for the order Chlamydiales and for the family Chlamydiaceae are provided. These families, genera and species are readily distinguished by analysis of signature sequences in the 16S and 23S ribosomal genes.