The budding yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been used in laboratory experiments for over a century and has been instrumental in understanding virtually every aspect of molecular biology and genetics. However, it wasn't until a decade ago that the scientific community started to realise how little was known about this yeast's ecology and natural history, and how this information was vitally important for interpreting its biology. Recent large-scale population genomics studies coupled with intensive field surveys have revealed a previously unappreciated wild lifestyle of S. cerevisiae outside the restrictions of human environments and laboratories. The recent discovery that Chinese isolates harbour almost twice as much genetic variation as isolates from the rest of the world combined suggests that Asia is the likely origin of the modern budding yeast.
Keywords: S. cerevisiae; ecology; evolutionary biology; genomics; natural history; population genomics; the natural history of model organisms.