Previous studies of the population genetic structure of the corallivorous crown-of-thorns starfish (COTS) Acanthaster planci in the Pacific Ocean showed high levels of gene flow that were assumed to reflect a high dispersal potential. However, the phylogeographic analyses of the Pacific crown-of-thorns starfish species of this study, using the highly variable mitochondrial control region and the most complete geographic coverage to date, contradict this view. Results show high levels of overall genetic structure (I broken vertical bar(ST) = 0.198), suggesting a complex history of range restrictions and expansions, a pattern that we hypothesize results from changes in topography and oceanography associated with sea-level changes. However, results also show signatures of ongoing gene flow between populations isolated in the past and high levels of genetic connectivity even among distant populations. Combined, these results indicate that while there are significant limits to genetic exchange among populations among Pacific Ocean populations of the crown-of-thorns starfish, the high larval dispersal potential of this species is often achieved as well.