Infraspecific relationships and population parameters are largely unknown in the ecologically significant mud snail genus Hydrobia s.I. We therefore studied infraspecific variation, population structure and gene flow in two Hydrobia species with different life history strategies: the marine, planktonic H. ulvae and the brackish-water, directly developing H. ventrosa. Based on sequencing data of a 638 bp fragment of the mtDNA gene for cytochrome oxidase 1, we found considerable differences between the two species. H. ulvae shows high average pairwisc nucleotide diversity, low population level differentiation (Fst). AND high average gene flow (Nm) between populations. Dispersal appears to accord with Wright's island model. In contrast, many populations of H. ventrosa have high population level differentiation and low gene flow. The average pairwise nucleotide diversity is relatively low; this species disperses according to Wright's isolation by distance model. Differences in dispersal modes and gene flow could be partly due to differences in type of early ontogeny and quantitative differences in passive dispersal. However, the fact that H. ulvae is a marine species with high tolerance to environmental stress and therefore less sensitive to migration barriers than H. ventrosa may better explain these differences. The extant lineages of H. ulvae and H. ventrosa most likely evolved in the northeastern Atlantic during the Pleistocene.