Abstract Aim New Zealand broke away from the margins of Gondwana c. 75 Ma. Since then, New Zealand taxa derived from the Gondwanan biota are thought to have been exposed first to a subtropical climate on a low lying terrain, then severe land reduction during
the Oligocene marine transgression, followed by much cooler climates of the Pliocene and Pleistocene, at which time mountain ranges emerged. The biological consequence of New Zealand's geological and climatic history is not well understood, in particular the extent to which the Oligocene acted
as a biological bottleneck remains unresolved. Methods We used mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase I and 12S DNA sequences to examine the extent of diversity and inferred timing of speciation of New Zealand weta (Anostostomatidae), a group of Orthoptera with a Gondwanan distribution
generally thought to be ancient inhabitants of New Zealand. Main conclusions We hypothesize that at least three distinct groups of weta survived the Oligocene marine transgression and radiated subsequently. Speciation followed during the Miocene and radiation into new habitats
occurred during the Pliocene when mountain building created novel environments. Patterns of genetic diversity within species reflect, in some instances, geographical subdivision in the Pliocene, and in other cases, Pleistocene range changes resulting from climate change.