Summary The phylogenetic relationships of ten strongy-locentrotid sea urchin species were determined using mitochondrial DNA sequences. This phylogeny provides a backdrop for the evolutionary history of one of the most studied groups of sea urchins. Our phylogeny indicates that a major revision of this group is in order. All else remaining unchanged, it supports the inclusion of three additional species into the genus Strongylocentrotus (Hemicentrotus pulcherrimus, Allocentrotus fragilis, and Pseudocentrotus depressus). All were once thought to be closely related to this genus, but subsequent revisions separated them into other taxonomic groupings. Most strongylocentrotid species are the result of a recent burst of speciation in the North Pacific that resulted in an ecological diversification. There has been a steady reduction in the complexity of larval skeletons during the expansion of this group. Gamete attributes like egg size, on the other hand, are not correlated with phylogenetic position. In addition, our results indicate that the rate of replacement substitutions is highly variable among phylogenetic lineages. The branches leading to S. purpuratus and S. franciscanus were three to six times longer than those leading to closely related species.