- Aim We assessed the influence of past environmental changes, notably the importance of palaeogeographical and climatic drivers, in shaping the distribution patterns of Dipodoidea (Rodentia), the superfamily most closely related to the large species-rich superfamily Muroidea (c. 1300–1500 species). Dipodoids are suitable for testing several biogeographical hypotheses because of their disjunct distribution patterns in the Northern Hemisphere and the numerous species distributed in Asian deserts. Location Holarctic. Methods We inferred molecular phylogenetic relationships for Dipodoidea (34 out of 51 species and 15 out of 16 genera) based on five coding genes. A time-calibrated phylogeny was estimated using a Bayesian relaxed molecular clock with four fossil calibrations. A cross-validation procedure was adopted to examine the impact of each fossil on our estimates. The ancestral area of origin and biogeographical scenarios were reconstructed using time-stratified dispersal–extinction–cladogenesis models. Results Phylogenetic analyses recovered a well-resolved and supported topology. The divergence between Dipodoidea and Muroidea occurred in the late Palaeocene (c. 57.72 Ma) and modern Dipodoidea diversified during the middle Eocene (c. 40.62 Ma). Similar results were found with each calibration strategy used with the cross-validation procedure. The reconstruction of ancestral areas and biogeographical events indicated that modern Dipodoidea originated in the Himalaya-Tibetan and Central Asian region. Main conclusions At the time when Dipodoidea diversified (middle Eocene), the Central Asia and Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau region experienced major uplift episodes due to the collision of India with Asia, which also induced diversification events in many other groups. Other important diversification events (e.g. divergence between Zapodidae and Dipodidae in Central Asia) took placed during the Eocene–Oligocene transition when the global temperature decreased significantly and rodent/lagomorph-dominant faunas replaced Eocene perissodactyl-dominant faunas. All of these climatic and geological disruptions in the Central Asia and Himalaya-Tibetan Plateau region modified landscapes and offered new habitats that favoured diversification events, thus triggering the evolutionary history of Dipodoidea.