Danio is a diverse group of small, colourful and easily bred freshwater fishes native to Southern Asia. Biological interest in danios has increased in recent years because the zebrafish, Danio rerio , has become an important model organism, particularly for studies of vertebrate developmental biology and genetics. Though several phylogenetic studies of Danio have been done on a subset of Danio species, the resulting phylogenies conflict in detail. To examine the utility of osteology for systematics of this group at the species level, we studied the axial skeleton for 11 species of Danio. We analyse our morphological data alone and combined with DNA sequence data for five gene sequences generated in earlier phylogenetic studies. The axial skeleton of Danio exhibits 14 characters that prove useful in phylogenetic analysis. Both molecular and morphological data support the monophyly of the danios included in our analysis and both data sets support the monophyly of two subclades: a deep-bodied group and a slender-bodied group. Separate analysis of molecular and morphological data sets show that the molecular data resolves relationships within the slender subclade whereas the topology of the deep-bodied subclade is determined by morphological data. © 2002 The Linnean Society of London. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society , 2002, 135 , 529–546.