THE evolutionary relationships among arthropods are of particular interest because the best-studied model system for ontogenetic pattern formation, the insect Drosophila, is a member of this phylum. Evolutionary inferences about the developmental mechanisms that have led to the various designs of the arthropod body plan depend on a knowledge of the phylogenetic framework of arthropod evolution. Based on morphological evidence1-3, but also on palaeonto-logical considerations4, the sister group of the insects is believed to be found among the myriapods. Using nuclear ribosomal gene sequences for constructing a molecular phylogeny, we provide strong evidence that the crustaceans and not the myriapods should be considered to be the sister group of the insects. Moreover, the degree of sequence divergence suggests that the diversification of the myriapods occurred during the Cambrian, Our findings have general implications for the course of land colonization by the different arthropod groups, as well as for the interpretation of primitive and derived features of arthropod morphology.