Phylogenetic and phylogeographic relationships within and among species of the Atlantic Forest spiny rat Trinomys (family Echimyidae) were examined using cytochrome b sequence data. Levels of sequence divergence among species of Trinomys are as high as those found among taxa of echimyids that are recognized as different genera. Trinomys contains three distinct monophyletic clades that show a striking concordance with vegetational distribution. Haplotypes of clade 1 are distributed along the coastal margins of southeastern Brazil, following the moist tropical forest. Members of clade 2 are found in the semi-deciduous tropical forest. T. albispinus represents clade 3 and is found in a more xeric vegetation. Estimates of divergence times separating the three clades are very deep and range from 1.6 to 7.4 millions of years, predating the climatic fluctuations of the Pleistocene. Therefore, the proposed Late Pleistocene refugia in the Atlantic Forest cannot account for the divergence of the clades of Trinomys, but most likely shaped the modern distribution of species. The current taxonomy of this group does not reflect the diversity and phylogenetic relationships of the named species. However, morphological characters are congruent with the phylogeny uncovered by the molecular data. An extensive taxonomic rearrangement is suggested, reflecting phylogenetic relationships of monophyletic entities within the genus Trinomys, degree of sequence differences, and morphological diagnosability.