Species richness is distributed unevenly across the tree of life and this may be influenced by the evolution of novel phenotypes that promote diversification. Viviparity has originated ∼150 times in vertebrates and is considered to be an adaptation to highly variable environments. Likewise, possessing an annual life cycle is common in plants and insects, where it enables the colonization of seasonal environments, but rare in vertebrates. The extent to which these reproductive life-history traits have enhanced diversification and their relative importance in the process remains unknown. We show that convergent evolution of viviparity causes bursts of diversification in fish. We built a phylogenetic tree for Cyprinodontiformes, an order in which both annualism and viviparity have arisen, and reveal that while both traits have evolved multiple times, only viviparity played a major role in shaping the patterns of diversity. These results demonstrate that changes in reproductive life-history strategy can stimulate diversification.