The Paleozoic and post-Paleozoic radiations of crinoids present an opportunity to explore genomic and ecological explanations for patterns of morphologic diversification. Analysis of discrete-character data that cover the principal features of the crinoid skeleton shows that both Paleozoic and post-Paleozoic increases in morphological disparity were abrupt; this is consistent with rapid exploitation of open ecological opportunities in both cases. For the post-Paleozoic, this result is sensitive to some aspects of data analysis and sampling, so it cannot be regarded as unequivocal. The deceleration in morphological diversification within each radiation is consistent with an observed decline in rates of taxonomic origination as well as with the attainment of functional or structural limits. Despite these similarities in the two radiations, Paleozoic crinoids exploited a wider range of morphological designs than did their post-Paleozoic successors. Post-Paleozoic crinoids exploited a wide range of ecological strategies despite being stereotyped in many aspects of form. This difference between the radiations is consistent with an increase in the rigidity of genetic and developmental systems. The range of post-Paleozoic designs is not in essence a subset of the Paleozoic spectrum. The two radiations resulted in morphological distributions that are largely nonoverlapping, perhaps reflecting a different range of ecological strategies.