Fewer than 1% of marine gastropod species live a holoplanktic life. Of these, the shelled heteropods of the family Atlantidae are among the most poorly understood. The atlantids potentially make up an important part of the ocean zooplankton, composing up to 69% of shelled holoplanktic gastropods in the Late Pleistocene to Recent fossil record. They are also likely to be at high risk from current and future global changes, including anthropogenic ocean acidification. However, due to their small size (<12 mm), difficulty of sampling and complicated morphology, we still lack key information about atlantid taxonomy and ecology. This makes it difficult to understand how important they are in the ocean foodweb and how they will be affected by environmental change. Although many studies have been carried out on the atlantids, these have generally been broad and unconnected. Here, we draw together this previous research, summarizing what is currently known about atlantid taxonomy, palaeontology, ecology and biogeography, and aiming to provide a foundation for future research on this group. The data indicate complex behaviours involving seasonal and vertical migration, and demonstrate extended geographical ranges, with implications for understanding the role of atlantids in the ocean foodweb and their sensitivity to environmental changes. This review highlights the urgent need for further taxonomic research on the atlantids, including molecular analysis, and for improved sampling techniques.