The Mediterranean basin is an area of high diversity and endemicity, but the age and origin of its fauna are still largely unknown. Here we use species-level phylogenies based on ≈ 1300 base pairs of the genes 16S rRNA and cytochrome oxidase I to establish the relationships of 27 of the 34 endemic Iberian species of diving beetles in the family Dytiscidae, and to investigate their level of divergence. Using a molecular clock approach, 18–19 of these species were estimated to be of Pleistocene origin, with four to six of them from the Late Pleistocene (≈ 100 000 years). A second, lower speciation frequency peak was assigned to Late Miocene or Early Pliocene. Analysis of the distributional ranges showed that endemic species placed in the tip nodes of the trees are significantly more likely to be allopatric with their sisters than endemic species at lower node levels. Allopatric sister species are also significantly younger than sympatric clades, in agreement with an allopatric mode of speciation and limited subsequent range movement. These results strongly suggest that for some taxa Iberian populations were isolated during the Pleistocene long enough to speciate, and apparently did not expand their ranges to recolonize areas north of the Pyrenees. This is in contradiction to observations from fossil beetles in areas further north, which document large range movements associated with the Pleistocene glacial cycles hypothesized to suppress population isolation and allopatric speciation.