The patterns of adaptive radiations in ancient lakes provide valuable clues to mechanisms of speciation and adaptation. In contrast to vertebrate radiations, for instance in fishes or finches, invertebrate species flocks have been largely neglected. While the increase in molecular data narrows this gap, the anatomical basis for interpreting these data against the background of evolutionary hypotheses is still widely lacking. Here we evaluate anatomical findings in the live-bearing pachychilid freshwater gastropod Tylomelania, which has radiated extensively in ancient lakes in the Indonesian island, Sulawesi; we have aimed at reconciling these data with recently obtained molecular phylogenetic evidence. Discovered more than a century ago, the speciose and phenotypically diverse species flock with 34 currently described taxa was only occasionally cited as an example of adaptive radiation in ancient lakes, while anatomical data were entirely lacking. Our study of anatomical characters reveals very low qualitative variation at the species level. Thus, contrary to earlier views we suggest the existence of a single monophyletic lineage endemic to this island. The most conspicuous feature of Tylomelania is its uterine brooding strategy, i.e. retaining eggs and embryos in the pallial oviduct. This is unique among South-East Asian pachychilids. Within the uterine brood pouch the offspring is surrounded by considerable amounts of nutritive material produced by a very large albumin gland, and the embryos are produced continuously. The shelled juveniles of some species are the largest known so far in viviparous gastropods, measuring almost 2 cm in length when hatching. This combination of reproductive features in Tylomelania, characterized by a high amount of maternal investment, is considered to be ovoviviparous, rendering its brooding strategy unique also among other gastropods. In addition, our data reject a previously assumed close relationship to other South-East Asian pachychilids and instead suggest the North Australian Pseudopotamis as sister group to Tylomelania. These findings have significant consequences for the phylogenetic interpretation of morphological characters of Tylomelania in an evolutionary and biogeographical context, leading to the hypothesis that the common ancestor of both genera originated somewhere on the northern Australian continental margin. © 2005 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2005, 85, 513–542.