This study investigated a rapidly vanishing group of fishes in the genus Characodon (including Characodon lateralis and Characodon audax) from the upper Rio Mezquital drainage in Mexico. Using specimens from museum collections, morphological variation was assessed to quantify body shape differentiation among historic (i.e. extirpated and extant) collection sites. In both sexes, body shape (particularly head shape, the proportion of the caudal peduncle and the position and size of dorsal and anal fins) varied significantly among populations and species. Variation among collection sites could at least partially be attributed to geography, as the presence of distinct hydrographic units and a major waterfall coincided with major body shape differences. These results are discussed in the light of previously published molecular genetic analyses, as they have direct implications for taxonomic problems and the need for conservation measures for these endangered fishes.