Cyclestheria hislopi is thought to be the only extant species of Cyclestherida. It is the sister taxon of all Cladocera and displays morphological characteristics intermediate of Spinicaudata and Cladocera. Using one mitochondrial (COI) and two nuclear (EF1α and 28S rRNA) markers, we tested the hypothesis that C. hislopi represents a single circumtropic species. South American (French Guiana), Asian (India, Indonesia, Singapore) and several Australian populations were included in our investigation. Phylogenetic and genetic distance analyses revealed remarkable intercontinental genetic differentiation (uncorrected p-distances COI>13%, EF1α>3% and 28S>4%). Each continent was found to have at least one distinct Cyclestheria species, with Australia boasting four distinct main lineages which may be attributed to two to three species. The divergence of these species (constituting crown group Cyclestherida) was, on the basis of phylogenetic analyses of COI and EF1α combined with molecular clock estimates using several fossil branchiopod calibration points or a COI substitution rate of 1.4% per million years, dated to the Cretaceous. This was when the South American lineage split from the Asian-Australian lineage, with the latter diverging further in the Paleogene. Today's circumtropic distribution of Cyclestheria may be best explained by a combination of Gondwana vicariance and later dispersal across Asia and Australia when the tectonic plates of the two continents drew closer in the early Miocene. The lack of morphological differentiation that has taken place in this taxon over such a long evolutionary period contrasts with the high level of differentiation and diversification observed in its sister taxon the Cladocera. Further insights into the evolution of Cyclestheria may help us to understand the evolutionary success of the Cladocera.