Xenodexia ctenolepis (Hubbs, 1950) is a uniquely asymmetrical species in the fish family Poeciliidae that is endemic to a remote region of Guatemala. In the present study, we describe its life history based on the dissection of 65 adult females from three different collections. We show that it is a livebearer, has superfetation, or the ability to carry multiple litters of young in different stages of development, and has matrotrophy, or placentation, which results in the dry mass of young at birth being three- to four-fold greater than the egg at fertilization. The size distribution of males is non-normal in a fashion that suggests a genetic polymorphism for age and size at maturity. Most phylogenies place Tomeurus gracilis as the sister taxon to the remaining members of the family Poeciliidae. Because Tomeurus is the sole egg-layer in the family, egg-laying is thought to represent the life history of the common ancestor. Because Xenodexia possesses three supposed derived traits (livebearing, superfetation and matrotrophy), this phylogenetic hypothesis suggests that Xenodexia has a highly derived life history with respect to other members of the family. By contrast, the most recent DNA-based phylogeny suggests Xenodexia is the sister taxon to the remainder of the family. If this proves to be true, it suggests that some or all of these life history traits may have been characteristic of the common ancestor to the family, then lost and re-evolved multiple times within the family. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 92, 77–85.