Many tropical marine macroalgae are reported from all three ocean basins, though these very wide distributions may simply be an artifact resulting from inadequate taxonomy that fails to take into account cryptic diversity. Alternatively, pantropical distributions challenge the belief of limited intrinsic dispersal capacity of marine seaweeds and the effectiveness of the north-south oriented continents as dispersal barriers. We aimed to re-assess the distribution of two allegedly circumtropical brown algae, Dictyota ciliolata and D. crenulata, and interpret the realized geographical range of the respective species in relation to their thermal tolerance and major tectonic and climatic events during the Cenozoic.