This study unravels the evolution and biogeographic history of the globally distributed ant genus Crematogaster on the basis of a molecular phylogeny, reconstructed from five nuclear protein-coding genes and a total of 3384 bp of sequence data. A particular emphasis is placed on the evolutionary history of these ants in the Malagasy region. Bayesian and likelihood analyses performed on a dataset of 124 Crematogaster ingroup taxa lend strong support for three deeply diverging phylogenetic lineages within the genus: the Orthocrema clade, the Global Crematogaster clade and the Australo-Asian Crematogaster clade. The 15 previous subgenera within Crematogaster are mostly not monophyletic. Divergence dating analyses and ancestral range reconstructions suggest that Crematogaster evolved in South-East Asia in the mid-Eocene (40-45 ma). The three major lineages also originated in this region in the late Oligocene/early Miocene (~24-30 ma). A first dispersal out of S-E Asia by an Orthocrema lineage is supported for 22-30 ma to the Afrotropical region. Successive dispersal events out of S-E Asia began in the early, and continued throughout the late Miocene. The global distribution of Crematogaster was achieved by subsequent colonizations of all major biogeographic regions by the Orthocrema and the Global Crematogaster clade. Molecular dating estimates and ancestral range evolution are discussed in the light of palaeogeographic changes in the S-E Asian region and an evolving ocean circulation system throughout the Eocene, Oligocene and Miocene. Eight dispersal events to/from Madagascar by Crematogaster are supported, with most events occurring in the late Miocene to Pliocene (5.0-9.5 ma). These results suggest that Crematogaster ants possess exceptional dispersal and colonization abilities, and emphasize the need for detailed investigations of traits that have contributed to the global evolutionary success of these ants. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.