Under a neutral model, the stochastic lineage sorting that leads to gene monophyly proceeds slowly in large populations. Therefore, in many recent species with large population size, the genome will have mixed support for monophyly unless historical bottlenecks have accelerated coalescence. We use genealogical patterns in mitochondrial DNA and in introns of four nuclear loci to test for historical bottlenecks during the speciation and divergence of two temperate Lagenorhynchus dolphin species isolated by tropical Pacific waters (an antitropical distribution). Despite distinct morphologies, foraging behaviors, and mitochondrial DNAs, these dolphin species are polyphyletic at all four nuclear loci. The abundance of shared polymorphisms between these sister taxa is most consistent with the maintenance of large effective population sizes (5.09 x 10(4) to 10.9 x 10(4)) during 0.74-1.05 million years of divergence. A variety of population size histories are possible, however. We used gene tree coalescent probabilities to explore the rejection region for historical bottlenecks of different intensity given best estimates of effective population size under a strict isolation model of divergence. In L. obliquidens the data are incompatible with a colonization propagule of an effective size of 10 or fewer individuals. Although the ability to reject less extreme historical bottlenecks will require data from additional loci, the intermixed genealogical patterns observed between these dolphin sister species are highly probable only under an extended history of large population size. If similar demographic histories are inferred for other marine antitropical taxa, a parsimonious model for the Pleistocene origin of these distributions would not involve rare breaches of a constant dispersal barrier by small colonization propagules. Instead, a history of large population size in L. obliquidens and L. obscurus contributes to growing biological and environmental evidence that the equatorial barrier became permeable during glacial/interglacial cycles, leading to vicariant isolation of antitropical populations.