Soil-living animals such as collembolans, earthworms and isopods are considered to be sedentary animals with only limited dispersal capacities. Therefore, gene flow among populations is expected to be low leading to significant population genetic differentiation due to random drift and local adaptation. We reviewed the literature to test this expectation. Our survey reveals a clear signature in the current pattern of genetic variation due to post-glacial colonization events. It also reveals that habitus can be a misleading predictor of dispersal capacity. In some species relatively high gene flow across considerable distances, most likely through passive dispersal (mediated by wind, water flow or animals), might counteract local genetic adaptation and will prevent loss of genetic variation. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.