The fossil record reveals that biotic diversity has fluctuated quasi-cyclically through geological time. However, the causal mechanisms of biotic diversity cycles remain unexplained. Here, we highlight a common, correlatable 36 ± 1 Myr (million years) cycle in the diversity of marine genera as well as in tectonic, sea-level, and macrostratigraphic data over the past 250 Myr of Earth history. The prominence of the 36 ± 1 Myr cycle in tectonic data favors a common-cause mechanism, wherein geological forcing mechanisms drive patterns in both biological diversity and the preserved rock record. In particular, our results suggest that a 36 ± 1 Myr tectono-eustatically driven sea-level cycle may originate from the interaction between the convecting mantle and subducting slabs, thereby pacing mantle-lithospheric deep-water recycling. The 36 ± 1 Myr tectono-eustatic driver of biodiversity is likely related to cyclic continental inundations, with expanding and contracting ecological niches on shelves and in epeiric seas.