We examine the structure and phylogeography of the pig-eye shark (Carcharhinus amboinensis) common in shallow coastal environments in northern Australia using two types of genetic markers, two mitochondrial (control region and NADH hydrogenase 4) and two nuclear (microsatellite and Rag 1) DNA. Two populations were defined within northern Australia on the basis of mitochondrial DNA evidence, but this result was not supported by nuclear microsatellite or Rag 1 markers. One possibility for this structure might be sex-specific behaviours such as female philopatry, although we argue it is doubtful that sufficient time has elapsed for any potential signatures from this behaviour to be expressed in nuclear markers. It is more likely that the observed pattern represents ancient populations repeatedly isolated and connected during episodic sea level changes during the Pleistocene epoch, until current day with restricted contemporary gene flow maintaining population genetic structure. Our results show the need for an understanding of both the history and ecology of a species in order to interpret patterns in genetic structure. � 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.