Parallel evolutionary radiations in adjacent locations have been documented in many systems, but typically at limited geographical scales. Here, we compare patterns of evolutionary radiation at the global scale in iguanian lizards, the dominant clade of lizards. We generated a new time-calibrated phylogeny including 153 iguanian species (based on mitochondrial and nuclear data) and obtained data on morphology and microhabitats. We then compared patterns of species diversification, morphological disparity, and ecomorphological relationships in the predominantly Old World and New World clades (Acrodonta and Pleurodonta, respectively), focusing on the early portions of these radiations. Acrodonts show relatively constant rates of species diversification and disparity over time. In contrast, pleurodonts show an early burst of species diversification and less-than-expected morphological disparity early in their history, and slowing diversification and increasing disparity more recently. Analyses including all species (with MEDUSA) suggest accelerated diversification rates in certain clades within both Acrodonta and Pleurodonta, which strongly influences present-day diversity patterns. We also find substantial differences in ecomorphological relationships between these clades. Our results demonstrate that sister clades in different global regions can undergo very different patterns of evolutionary radiation over similar time frames. © 2012 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2012, ●●, ●●–●●.