The relative importance of factors that may promote genetic differentiation in marine organisms is largely unknown. Here, contributions to population structure from a biogeographic boundary, geographical distance and the distribution of suitable habitat were investigated in Axoclinus nigricaudus, a small subtidal rock-reef fish, throughout its range in the Gulf of California. A 408-bp fragment of the mitochondrial control region was sequenced from 105 individuals. Variation was significantly partitioned between 28 of 36 possible combinations of population pairs. Phylogenetic analyses, hierarchical analyses of variance and a modified Mantel test substantiated a major break between two putative biogeographic regions. This genetic discontinuity coincides with an abrupt change in ecological characteristics, including temperature and salinity, but does not coincide with known oceanographic circulation patterns or any known historic barriers. There was an overall relationship of increasing genetic distance with increasing geographical distance between population pairs, in a manner consistent with isolation-by-distance. A significant habitat-by-geographical-distance interaction term indicated that, for a given geographical distance, populations separated by discontinuous habitat (sand) are more distinct genetically than are populations separated by continuous habitat (rock). In addition, populations separated by deep open waters were more genetically distinct than populations separated by continuous habitat (rock). These results indicate that levels of genetic differentiation among populations of A. nigricaudus cannot be explained by a single factor, but are due to the combined influences of biogeography, geographical distance and availability of suitable habitat.