Phylogenetic relationships among Trypanosoma rangeli isolates from man, wild mammals and triatomine bugs from widespread geographical origin were inferred by comparison of the small subunit of ribosomal gene sequences. The phylogenetic trees indicated that the subgenus Herpetosoma is polyphyletic and strongly supported division of this group into two monophyletic lineages, one made up of T. rangeli, T. rangeli-like and allied species and other consisting of T. lewisi and related taxa. Based on phylogenetic analysis, morphology, behaviour in vertebrate and invertebrate hosts and epidemiology we propose: a) the validation of Herpetosoma as a taxon comprised only for species of group lewisi and the maintenance of T. lewisi as the type-species of this subgenus; b) the classification of T. rangeli, T. rangeli-like and allied species into a ‘T. rangeli-clade’ more closely related to Schizotrypanum than to T. lewisi or T. brucei. The phylogenetic tree disclosed at least 4 groups within the clade T. rangeli, all confirmed by polymorphism of the internal transcribed spacer, thus conferring for the first time phylogenetic support to groups of T. rangeli and corroborating the high complexity of this taxon. Grouping was independent of their mammalian host-species and geographical origin, indicating that other factors are determining this segregation.