The historical phylogeography of the two most important intermediate host species of the human blood fluke Schistosoma mansoni, B. glabrata in the New World, and B. pfeifferi in the Old World, was investigated using partial 16S and ND1 sequences from the mitochondrial genome. Nuclear sequences of an actin intron and internal transcribed spacer (ITS)-1 were also obtained, but they were uninformative for the relationships among populations. Phylogenetic analyses based on mtDNA revealed six well-differentiated clades within B. glabrata: the Greater Antilles, Venezuela and the Lesser Antilles, and four geographically overlapping Brazilian clades. Application of a Biomphalaria-specific mutation rate gives an estimate of the early Pleistocene for their divergence. The Brazilian clades were inferred to be the result of fragmentation, due possibly to climate oscillations, with subsequent range expansion producing the overlapping ranges. Within the Venezuela and Lesser Antilles clade, lineages from each of these areas were estimated to have separated approximately 740 000 years ago. Compared to B. glabrata, mitochondrial sequences of B. pfeifferi are about 4× lower in diversity, reflecting a much younger age for the species, with the most recent common ancestor of all haplotypes estimated to have existed 880 000 years ago. The oldest B. pfeifferi haplotypes occurred in southern Africa, suggesting it may have been a refugium during dry periods. A recent range expansion was inferred for eastern Africa less than 100 000 years ago. Several putative species and subspecies, B. arabica, B. gaudi, B. rhodesiensis and B. stanleyi, are shown to be undifferentiated from other B. pfeifferi populations.