Although free-living protists play essential roles in aquatic and soil ecology, little is known about their diversity and phylogeography, especially in terrestrial ecosystems. We used mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI) gene sequences to investigate the genetic diversity and phylogeography of the testate amoeba morphospecies Hyalosphenia papilio in 42 Sphagnum (moss)-dominated peatlands in North America, Europe and Asia. Based on ≥1% sequence divergence threshold, our results from single-cell PCRs of 301 individuals revealed 12 different genetic lineages and both the general mixed Yule-coalescent (GMYC) model and the automatic barcode gap discovery (ABGD) methods largely support the hypothesis that these 12 H. papilio lineages correspond to evolutionary independent units (i.e. cryptic species). Our data also showed a high degree of genetic heterogeneity within different geographical regions. Furthermore, we used variation partitioning based on partial redundancy analyses (pRDA) to evaluate the contributions of climate and dispersal limitations on the distribution patterns of the different genetic lineages. The largest fraction of the variation in genetic lineage distribution was attributed to purely climatic factors (21%), followed by the joint effect of spatial and bioclimatic factors (13%), and a purely spatial effect (3%). Therefore, these data suggest that the distribution patterns of H. papilio genetic lineages in the Northern Hemisphere are more influenced by climatic conditions than by dispersal limitations.