The population structure of two species of sea cucumber was examined based on mitochondrial DNA sequence analysis. Cucumaria miniata, a species with pelagic nonfeeding larvae lasting less than 2 weeks, and C. pseudocurata, a brooding species lacking a pelagic phase, both occur over similar wide ranges of the northeastern Pacific between Alaska and California. No significant genetic structuring was observed among C. miniata samples with 95% of the observed nucleotide variance attributable to that within population samples. Conversely, only 3.4% of the observed variance was attributed to that within C. pseudocurata population samples, with sampling sites typically greater than 100 km apart. At a finer scale, two C. pseudocurata population samples taken 5 km apart were not statistically different. A significant genetic disjunction was observed among populations of the brooding species, but not in species with pelagic larvae, north of Vancouver Island, Canada, corresponding to the splitting of the California and Alaska currents. Given the observed high levels of genetic diversity in northern samples, this genetic break indicates survival in northern, as well as southern, Pleistocene refugia. These results clearly demonstrate the effects that changes in life-history patterns can have on dispersal, population structure, and the potential for speciation events.