Pulmonate snails occupy a wide range of marine, estuarine, freshwater and terrestrial environments. Non-terrestrial forms are supposed to be basal in pulmonate evolution but the group's phylogeny is not well resolved either morphologically or on the basis of available DNA sequence data. The lack of a robust phylogeny makes it difficult to understand character polarization and habitat transformation in pulmonates. We have investigated pulmonate relationships using 27 new sequences of 28S rRNA from pulmonates and outgroups, augmented with data from GenBank. The complete alignments comprised about 3.8kb. Maximum parsimony, maximum likelihood and Bayesian analyses of alignments generated under different assumptions are reported. Complete alignments appear to have a degree of substitution saturation so where there is conflict between hypothesised relationships more weight is given to analyses where regions of random similarity are excluded and which are not affected by this complication. Monophyly of the five main pulmonate groups was robustly supported in almost all analyses. The marine group Amphiboloidea and the freshwater Glacidorbidae are the most basal. The remaining pulmonates (Siphonariidae, Hygrophila and Eupulmonata) form a moderately-supported monophyletic group in all analyses bar one probably affected by saturation of substitutions. Siphonariidae, a predominantly marine and intertidal family, and Eupulmonata (mainly terrestrial with marine, estuarine and freshwater species) form a strongly supported clade that is the sister group to Hygrophila (freshwater). Multiple colonizations of freshwater and terrestrial habitats by pulmonate snails are suggested. No analyses strongly support the possibility of habitat reversions. The colonizations of freshwater by Hygrophila and of land by Stylommatophora were apparently phylogenetically independent although it cannot yet be excluded that there were transient terrestrial phases in the history of the former group or freshwater phases in the latter.
Keywords: Amphiboloidea; Glacidorbidae; Pulmonata; Terrestriality; Freshwater colonization