Four genera of the Phacotaceae (Phacotus, Pteromonas, Wislouchiella, Dysmorphococcus), a family of loricated green algal flagellates within the Volvocales, were investigated by means of transmission electron microscopy and analysis of the nuclear encoded small-subunit ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) genes and the plastid-encoded rbcL genes. Additionally, the 18S rDNA of Haematococcus pluvialis and the rbcL sequences of Chlorogonium elongatum, C. euchlorum, Dunaliella parva, Chloromonas serbinowii, Chlamydomonas radiata, and C. tetragama were determined. Analysis of ultrastructural data justified the separation of the Phacotaceae into two groups. Phacotus, Pteromonas, and Wislouchiella generally shared the following characters: egg-shaped protoplasts, a single pyrenoid with planar thylakoid double-lamellae, three-layered lorica, flagellar channels as part of the central lorica layer, mitochondria located in the central cytoplasm, lorica development that occurs in mucilaginous zoosporangia that are to be lysed, and no acid-resistant cell walls. Dysmorphococcus was clearly different in each of the characters mentioned. Direct comparison of sequences of Phacotus lenticularis, Pteromonas sp., Pteromonas protracta, and Wislouchiella planctonica revealed DNA sequence homologies of >/=98. 0% within the 18S gene and 93.9% within the rbcL gene. D. globosus was quite different from these species, with a maximum of 92.9% homology in the 18S rRNA and </=86.6% in the rbcL gene. It showed major similarities to the 18S rDNA of Dunaliella salina, with 95.3%, and to the rbcL sequence of Chlamydomonas tetragama, with 90.3% sequence homology. Additionally, the Phacotaceae sensu stricto exclusively shared 10 (rbcL: 4) characters which were present neither in other Chlamydomonadales nor in Dysmorphococcus globosus. Different phylogenetic analysis methods confirmed the hypothesis that the Phacotaceae are polyphyletic. The Phacotaceae sensu stricto form a stable cluster with affinities to the Dunaliellaes and possibly Haematococcus pluvialis. Dysmorphococcus globosus represented an independent lineage that is possibly related to Chlamydomonas moewusii and C. tetragama.