Habitat loss and fragmentation due to urbanization are the most pervasive threats to biodiversity in southern California. Loss of habitat and fragmentation can lower migration rates and genetic connectivity among remaining populations of native species, reducing genetic variability and increasing extinction risk. However, it may be difficult to separate the effects of recent anthropogenic fragmentation from the genetic signature of prehistoric fragmentation due to previous natural geological and climatic changes. To address these challenges, we examined the phylogenetic and population genetic structure of a flightless insect endemic to cismontane southern California, Stenopelmatus 'mahogani' (Orthoptera: Stenopelmatidae). Analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequence data suggest that diversification across southern California began during the Pleistocene, with most haplotypes currently restricted to a single population. Patterns of genetic divergence correlate with contemporary urbanization, even after correcting for (geographical information system) GIS-based reconstructions of fragmentation during the Pleistocene. Theoretical simulations confirm that contemporary patterns of genetic structure could be produced by recent urban fragmentation using biologically reasonable assumptions about model parameters. Diversity within populations was positively correlated with current fragment size, but not prehistoric fragment size, suggesting that the effects of increased drift following anthropogenic fragmentation are already being seen. Loss of genetic connectivity and diversity can hinder a population's ability to adapt to ecological perturbations commonly associated with urbanization, such as habitat degradation, climatic changes and introduced species. Consequently, our results underscore the importance of preserving and restoring landscape connectivity for long-term persistence of low vagility native species. Journal compilation ?? 2006 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.