The phylogenetic analysis of Sergestoidea based on 253 morphological characters and encompassing all 99 valid species confirmed all previously recognized genus-level clades. Analysis retrieved five major robust clades that correspond to families Luciferidae, Sergestidae, Acetidae fam.n., Sicyonellidae fam.n. and Petalidiumidae fam.n. Synonymy, emended diagnoses and composition of revealed family-level clades are provided. Three types of morphological characters were important in the phylogeny of the Sergestoidea: general external characters, copulatory organs, and photophores. Novel metrics to quantify the contribution of these character types were tested. General external characters were significant in supporting the major clades (80% of the families and nearly half of the genera). Copulatory organ characters and photophores greatly supported the medium-level clades: Lucifer, Belzebub, Petalidium, Neosergestes, Challengerosergia (copulatory organ characters) and Lucensosergia, Challengerosergia, Gardinerosergia, Phorcosergia (photophores). An evolutionary model of the Sergestoidea showing their pathways into their principal biotopes is proposed: the major clades evolved in a vertical direction (from epi- to bathypelagic); further divergence at the genus level occurred within vertical zones in a horizontal direction, with the invasion of the benthopelagic and neritic (shelf and estuarine) habitats and speciation within these domains.