The water fleas of the Daphnia pulex complex play a key role in freshwater ecosystems throughout the northern hemisphere. Despite the fact that they have been the subject of study for numerous biological disciplines, their phylogeny and species delimitation remain controversial. We used DNA sequence variation of the mitochondrial ND5 gene to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of D. pulicaria Forbes, a widespread member of this complex from North America and Europe. Populations from the two continents respectively split into two evolutionary lineages, Eastern Nearctic and European, which each belong to another main clade within the D. pulex complex (the pulicaria and tenebrosa groups, respectively). Unexpectedly, melanin and carotenoid pigmented D. pulicaria populations from European high-mountain lakes were not allied with the transparent populations inhabiting the same lakes and the lowland ponds and reservoirs throughout Europe, but were included with the samples from Canada and Greenland in the Eastern Nearctic lineage. Until now populations belonging to this lineage were known only from Canada and North Atlantic islands, but not from mainland Europe. Independent data from microsatellite markers supported the genetic distinctiveness of the sympatric carotenoid pigmented and transparent populations and suggested that they may have undergone transition to obligate parthenogenesis, possibly as a consequence of past introgressive hybridization. Two different taxa are therefore confused under the name D. pulicaria in Europe. The close phylogenetic relationships of European populations with those from Canada and Greenland suggest that the Nearctic lineage is of recent origin in Europe via intercontinental dispersal from the North America. It has evolved melanin and carotenoid pigmentation as adaptations against the UV light stress, which enable it to share habitat occupied by the transparent European species. The Nearctic D. pulicaria thus provides a new model for studying successful intercontinental invasion. In general, our study demonstrates that a considerable part of the diversity among widespread taxa of cladoceran crustaceans has been overlooked in morphological taxonomies.