Aim Lanternfishes (Myctophidae) are one of the most species-rich families of mid-water fishes. They inhabit the mesopelagic zone, where physical barriers to dispersal and gene flow are permeable. Thus, modes of speciation that rely exclusively on geographical separation are potentially of less importance than those that rely more prominently on evolution of assortative mating through divergent habitat use and/or sexual signals, including visual signals from bioluminescent light organs. Here we used phylogenetic, ecological and morphological data to investigate the roles of geography, habitat use and lateral photophores in lanternfish speciation. Location Global. Time period Data collected between 1950 and 2015. Major taxa studied Lanternfishes (Myctophidae). Methods Ecological niche models (ENMs) were developed for 167 species, enabling the community composition of 33 mesopelagic ecoregions to be determined. Sequence data for seven protein-coding regions from 175 species were used to reconstruct a phylogenetic tree of Myctophidae. Age-overlap correlation tests were conducted using this phylogeny with outputs from ENMs (pairwise geographical overlap and pairwise ecological niche overlap, n = 136), in addition to matrices of pairwise depth overlap (n = 158) and photophore pattern dissimilarity (n = 161). Results Communities assembled according to nine broad climatic regions, and recently diverged species pairs possessed greater geographical and ecological niche overlap than more distantly related species, indicating that sympatric or parapatric speciation might be dominant modes of divergence. Differences in photophore patterns increased with the relative age of speciation events, suggesting that photophore patterns are largely constrained by phylogeny. Main conclusions Based on this evidence, we suggest that large-scale oceanographic features structure the diversity of lanternfish communities and that speciation within this family of deep-water fishes might not have required geographical isolation.