The chirostyloid squat lobster Pristinaspina gelasina from the Upper Cretaceous of Alaska is most closely related to members of the genus Kiwa (Kiwaidae) as indicated by the presence of supraocular spines, a medially carinate rostrum and similar carapace groove patterns. Evidence from morphology, stratigraphic position and molecular divergence estimates of extant chirostyloids supports its position in the stem of Kiwaidae. Pristinaspina, however, also differs significantly from kiwaids and is here assigned to a new family, Pristinaspinidae. The chief distinction between the free-living pristinaspinids and vent- or seep-associated kiwaids (and an important synapomorphy of the latter) is the enlargement of the metabranchial regions in kiwaids, which meet in the mid-line and separate the cardiac region from the intestinal region. The enlarged metabranchial regions of kiwaids may have improved respiration in poorly oxygenated, chemosynthetically affected waters. This appears to track a major shift in the deep-water ecology of kiwaiform squat lobsters, that is, the movement into chemosynthetic habitats.