Islands provide classic model biological systems. We review how growing appreciation of geoenvironmental dynamics of marine islands has led to advances in island biogeographic theory accommodating both evolutionary and ecological phenomena. Recognition of distinct island geodynamics permits general models to be developed and modified to account for patterns of diversity, diversification, lineage development, and trait evolution within and across island archipelagos. Emergent patterns of diversity include predictable variation in island species–area relationships, progression rule colonization from older to younger land masses, and syndromes including loss of dispersability and secondary woodiness in herbaceous plant lineages. Further developments in Earth system science, molecular biology, and trait data for islands hold continued promise for unlocking many of the unresolved questions in evolutionary biology and biogeography.