CD8(+) T lymphocytes (CD8-TL) select viral escape variants in both human immunodeficiency virus and simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infections. The frequency of CD8-TL viral escape as well as the contribution of escape to overall virus diversification has not been assessed. We quantified CD8-TL selection in SIV infections by sequencing viral genomes from 35 SIVmac239-infected animals at the time of euthanasia. Here we show that positive selection for sequences encoding 46 known CD8-TL epitopes is comparable to the positive selection observed for the variable loops of env. We also found that >60% of viral variation outside of the viral envelope occurs within recognized CD8-TL epitopes. Therefore, we conclude that CD8-TL selection is the dominant cause of SIV diversification outside of the envelope.