Combining phylogeographic data from mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) of Nearctic and Palearctic freshwater and anadromous fishes, we used a comparative approach to assess the influence of historical events on evolutionary patterns and processes in regional fish faunas. Specifically, we (i) determined whether regional faunas differentially affected by Pleistocene glaciations show predictable differences in phylogeographic patterns; (ii) evaluated how processes of divergence and speciation have been influenced by such differential responses; and (iii) assessed the general contribution of phylogeographic studies to conservation issues. Comparisons among case studies revealed fundamental differences in phylogeographic patterns among regional faunas. Tree topologies were typically deeper for species from nonglaciated regions compared to northern species, whereas species with partially glaciated ranges were intermediate in their characteristics. Phylogeographic patterns were strikingly similar among southern species, whereas species in glaciated areas showed reduced concordance. The extent and locations of secondary contact among mtDNA lineages varied greatly among northern species, resulting in reduced intraspecific concordance of genetic markers for some northern species. Regression analysis of phylogeographic data for 42 species revealed significant latitudinal shifts in intraspecific genetic diversity. Both relative nucleotide diversity and estimates of evolutionary effective population size showed significant breakpoints matching the median latitude for the southern limit of the Pleistocene glaciations. Similarly, analysis of clade depth of phylogenetically distinct lineages vs. area occupied showed that evolutionary dispersal rates of species from glaciated and nonglaciated regions differed by two orders of magnitude. A negative relationship was also found between sequence divergence among sister species as a function of their median distributional latitude, indicating that recent bursts of speciation events have occurred in deglaciated habitats. Phylogeographic evidence for parallel evolution of sympatric northern species pairs in postglacial times suggested that differentiation of cospecific morphotypes may be driven by ecological release. Altogether, these results demonstrate that comparative phylogeography can be used to evaluate not only phylogeographic patterns but also evolutionary processes. As well as having significant implications for conservation programs, this approach enables new avenues of research for examining the regional, historical, and ecological factors involved in shaping intraspecific genetic diversity.