Abstract We seek to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of the damselfly genus Calopteryx, for which extensive behavioral and morphological knowledge already exists. To date, analyses of the evolutionary pathways of different life history traits have been hampered by the absence of a robust phylogeny based on morphological data. In this study, we concentrate on establishing phylogenetic information from parts of the 16S rDNA gene, which we sequenced for nine Calopteryx species and five outgroup species. The mt 16S rDNA data set did not show signs of saturated variation for ingroup taxa, and phylogenetic reconstructions were insensitive to variation of outgroup taxa. Parsimony, neighbor-joining, and maximum-likelihood reconstructions agreed on parts of the tree. A consensus tree summarizes the significant results and indicates problematic nodes. The 16S rDNA sequences support monophyly of the genera Mnais, Matrona, and Calopteryx. However, the genus Calopteryx may not be monophyletic, since Matrona basilaris and Calopteryx atrata are sister taxa under every parameter setting. The North American and European taxa each appear as monophyletic clades, while the Asian Calopteryx atrata and Calopteryx cornelia are not monophyletic. Our data implies a different paleobiogeographic history of the Eurasian and North American species, with extant Eurasian species complexes shaped by glacial periods, in contrast to extant North American species groups.