To estimate the potential contribution of ethological and ecological parameters to the mechanisms of species formation and species isolation in the Palearctic cicada genus Tibicina, we constructed a molecular phylogenetic hypothesis of extant Tibicina species. Seven mitochondrial genes and a fragment of a nuclear gene were sequenced (3046 bp). Mitochondrial genes included 547 informative sites but the nuclear gene was too conserved to be included in the analysis. The tree was characterized by a basal polytomy indicating that Tibicina species arose rapidly. Such rapid radiation might explain the low divergence in the acoustic communication observed between species. Parameters describing habitat selection and acoustic communication were mapped onto the tree. A shift in habitat selection accompanied by acoustic changes might have contributed to one speciation event. The stochastic distribution of the same acoustic characters on the other branches of the tree implies, however, that the subtle acoustic differences between species could be the result of previous speciation events and independent evolutionary histories, rather than having contributed themselves in the speciation and isolation processes. © 2007 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2007, 91, 611–626.