Background Polychaetes assigned as Scoloplos armiger (Orbiniidae) show a cosmopolitan distribution and have been encountered in all zoogeographic regions. Sibling S. armiger-like species have been revealed by recent studies using RAPDs and AFLP genetic data. We sequenced a ~12 kb fragment of the Scoloplos cf. armiger mitochondrial genome and developed primers for variable regions including the 3' end of the cox3 gene, trnQ, and most of nad6. A phylogenetic analysis of this 528-nucleotide fragment was carried out for S. armiger-like individuals from the Eastern North Atlantic as well as Pacific regions. The aim of this study is to test the cosmopolitan status, as well as to clarify the systematics of this species complex in the Eastern North Atlantic, while using a few specimens from the Pacific Ocean for comparision. Results Phylogenetic analysis of the cox3-trnQ-nad6 data set recovered five different clades of Scoloplos cf. armiger. The fragment of the mitochondrial genome of Scoloplos cf. armiger is 12,042 bp long and contains 13 protein coding genes, 15 of the 22 expected tRNAs, and the large ribosomal subunit (rrnl). Conclusion The sequenced cox3-trnQ-nad6 fragment proved to be very useful in phylogenetic analyses of Scoloplos cf. armiger. Due to its larger sampling scale this study goes beyond previous analyses which used RAPD and AFLP markers. The results of this study clearly supports that Scoloplos armiger represents a species complex and not a cosmopolitan species. We find at least two S. armiger-like species within the Pacific region and three different S. armiger-like species in the North Atlantic. Implications for the taxonomy and the impact on ecological studies are discussed.