Abstract Species boundaries in the North American Daphnia longispina group have proved difficult to establish on the basis of morphology alone. This confusion may be due to hydridization, phenotypic plasticity or the existence of sibling species. We therefore used genetic analysis to delineate species boundaries by examining 27 North American populations belonging to the longispina complex for variation at 15-26 allozyme loci. The populations consisted of Daphnia thorata from two western sites and two eastern sites, Daphnia galeata mendotae from its type location and seven sites across its range, and Daphnia rosea from eight temperate and seven arctic sites. Two populations from the Eurasian longispina complex were also included for reference. Populations assigned to D. galeata mendotae formed a genetically cohesive group, whereas a genetic dichotomy was found between temperate and arctic D. rosea, suggesting that this taxon includes two species. Genetic analysis also confirmed the distinctness of western D. thorata from other members of the longispina group. Unexpectedly, eastern populations resembling D. thorata were genetically more similar to temperate D. rosea than to any helmeted species ( D. galeata, Daphnia hyalina or D. thorata). Our results suggest that the helmet character is a poor indicator of phylogenetic relationships, as the genetic ability to produce this feature has been lost or acquired several times in the evolution of the longispina group.