Belemnites, a very successful group of Mesozoic cephalopods, flourished in Cretaceous oceans until the Cretaceous-Paleogene event, when they became globally extinct. Following this event the modern types of cephalopods (squids, cuttlefish, octopus) radiated in the Cenozoic in all oceans. In the North Pacific, however, a turnover from belemnites to the modern types of cephalopods about 35 m.y. before the Cretaceous-Paleogene event documents a more complex evolutionary history of cephalopods than previously thought. Here we show that the modern types of cephalopods originated and prospered throughout the Late Cretaceous in the North Pacific. The mid-Cretaceous cephalopod turnover was caused by cooling and the closure of the Bering Strait, which led to a subsequent faunal isolation of this area. In the Late Cretaceous the former niches of the fast-swimming belemnites were taken over by the modern types of cephalopods, which evolved endemically. The Cretaceous-Paleogene event only allowed the modern types of cephalopods to spread globally and to take over the niches previously held by belemnites.