There are four species of ‘pygmaeus’ microphallids, namely Microphallus pygmaeus, M. piriformes, M. pseudopygmaeus and M. triangulatus (Trematoda: Microphallidae) which are parasites of marine birds and their sporocysts give rise to transmissible metacercariae inside littoral gastropods (mostly littorines). Universally primed polymerase chain reaction (UP-PCR) showed no apparent pattern between genetic diversity of the metacercariae as estimated by genomic banding profiles and their geographic region or molluscan host species. At the same time UP-PCR product cross-hybridization showed that M. pseudopygmaeus and M. triangulatus are genetically very similar, indicating that these taxa represent one species complex. In contrast, M. pygmaeus and M. piriformes are genetically well separated from each other and also from the pseudopygmaeus–triangulatus complex. Scanning electron microscopy of ventral spines, and analyses of spine angles and the number of teeth per spine, showed that all species differed significantly from one another. It was concluded that M. piriformes represents the original western member of the ‘pygmaeus’ group. Microphallus pygmaeus probably diverged from M. piriformes as it progressively specialized for sea duck final hosts. Microphallus pseudopygmaeus and M. triangulatus diverged from each other and the piriformes–pygmaeus ancestral line relatively recently. Microphallus pseudopygmaeus specialized for adoption of a wide range of gastropod host species and M. triangulatus developed morpho-functional specialization associated with final host exploitation.