The lizard genus Kentropyx (Squamata: Teiidae) comprises nine species, which have been placed in three species groups (calcarata group, associated to forests ecosystems; paulensis and striata groups, associated to open ecosystems). We reconstructed phylogenetic relationships of Kentropyx based on morphology (pholidosis and coloration) and mitochondrial DNA data (12S and 16S), using maximum parsimony and Bayesian methods, and evaluated biogeographic scenarios based on ancestral areas analyses and molecular dating by Bayesian methods. Additionally, we tested the life-history hypothesis that species of Kentropyx inhabiting open ecosystems (under seasonal environments) produce larger clutches with smaller eggs and that species inhabiting forest ecosystems (under aseasonal conditions) produce clutches with fewer and larger eggs, using Stearns’ phylogenetic-subtraction method and canonical phylogenetic ordination to take in to account the effects of phylogeny. Our results showed that Kentropyx comprises three monophyletic groups, with K. striata occupying a basal position in opposition to previous suggestions of relationships. Additionally, Bayesian analysis of divergence time showed that Kentropyx may have originated at the Tertiary (Eocene/Oligocene) and the ‘Pleistocene Refuge Hypothesis’ may not explain the species diversification. Based on ancestral reconstruction and molecular dating, we argued that a savanna ancestor is more likely and that historical events during the Tertiary of South America promoted the differentiation of the genus, coupled with recent Quaternary events that were important as dispersion routes and for the diversification at populational levels. Clutch size and egg volume were not significantly different between major clades and ecosystems of occurrence, even accounting for the phylogenetic effects. Finally, we argue that phylogenetic constraints and phylogenetic inertia might be playing essential roles in life history evolution of Kentropyx.