We investigated the evolutionary origins of the mosquito family Culicidae by examination of 18S and 5.8S ribosomal gene sequence divergence. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that within the infraorder Culicomorpha, taxa in the families Corethrellidae, Chaoboridae and Culicidae formed a monophyletic group; there was support for a sister relationship between this lineage and a representative of the Chironomidae. A chaoborid midge was the closest relative of the mosquitoes. Taxa from four genera of mosquitoes formed a monophyletic group; lack of a spacer in the 5.8S gene was unique to members of the Culicidae. A member of the genus Anopheles formed the most basal lineage among the mosquitoes analysed. Phylogenetic relationships were unresolved for representatives in the families Dixidae, Simuliidae and Ceratopogonidae.