- Morphological diversity,
- Ecological diversity,
Phanogenia gracilis sensu lato is a shallow-water crinoid distributed throughout the Indo-western Pacific. The taxonomy of P. gracilis s.l. is clouded by the presence of two distinct morphotypes, each differing in morphology and ecology. The goal was to determine the taxonomic status of P. gracilis s.l. using partial gene sequences of two mitochondrial DNA genes, cytochrome oxidase c subunit I and NADH dehydrogenase subunit II, in conjunction with morphological and ecological data. The molecular phylogenies revealed three lineages separated by 5.0–6.6% corrected genetic distance, which is consistent with the genetic distances among other echinoderm species. Neither morphotype was monophyletic, nor was any examined morphological character exclusive to any one lineage. Discriminant function analysis (DFA) of the morphological and ecological data yielded significant results when grouping P. gracilis by morphotype and by clades recovered in the phylogenetic analyses, but grouping by sample locality was rejected. Although DFA results of grouping by clade were significant, jackknife support was weak, while only correctly grouping specimens by their respective clades 65% of the time. The results suggest the possibility of cryptic species, but additional molecular and morphological data are needed to confirm this. This study demonstrates the need to reevaluate the taxonomy of crinoid species and their respective diagnostic characters.