Recent phylogeographical assessments have consistently shown that continental zooplankton display high levels of population subdivision, despite the high dispersal capacity of their diapausing propagules. As such, there is an apparent paradox between observed cosmopolitanism in the zooplankton that is associated with long-distance dispersal, and strong phylogeographical structures at a regional scale. Such population dynamics, far from migration–drift equilibrium, have been shown in the rotifer species complex Brachionus plicatilis, a group of over a dozen species inhabiting salt lakes and coastal lagoons worldwide. Here we present the mitochondrial DNA phylogeography of one of these species, Brachionus manjavacas, in the Iberian Peninsula, where it often co-occurs with the morphologically similar species B. plicatilis sensu stricto. We obtained sequences from 233 individuals from diapausing eggs and clonal cultures from 16 lakes in the Iberian Peninsula, and a Tunisian lake. Two strongly supported deep mitochondrial DNA clades were found (A and B). Phylogenetic and nested clade analysis showed that clade A has a strong phylogeographical structure, with a strong similarity of phylogeographical patterns between B. manjavacas clade A and B. plicatilis s.s. These include (i) signatures of allopatric fragmentation between central and southern populations, and (ii) range expansions in the Iberian Peninsula, both likely to have occurred during the Pleistocene. We find evidence for a glacial refugium in the Guadiana basin. Clades A and B co-occurred in several of these lakes because of range expansion and secondary contact between both clades. The co-occurrence between B. plicatilis s.s. and B. manjavacas is not recent, and both species might have experienced similar environmental challenges during the Pleistocene. The strong correlation of genetic and geographical distance found suggests that historical events can lead to such correlation, mirroring the effects of ‘isolation by distance’ in equilibrium populations.