Polyploidy has been widely appreciated as an important force in the evolution of plant genomes, but now it is recognized as a common phenomenon throughout eukaryotic evolution. Insight into this process has been gained by analyzing the plant, animal, fungal, and recently protozoan genomes that show evidence of whole genome duplication (a transient doubling of the entire gene repertoire of an organism). Moreover, comparative analyses are revealing the evolutionary processes that occur as multiple related genomes diverge from a shared polyploid ancestor, and in individual genomes that underwent several successive rounds of duplication. Recent research including laboratory studies on synthetic polyploids indicates that genome content and gene expression can change quickly after whole genome duplication and that cross-genome regulatory interactions are important. We have a growing understanding of the relationship between whole genome duplication and speciation. Further, recent studies are providing insights into why some gene pairs survive in duplicate, whereas others do not.