[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The yeast S. cerevisiae is a central model organism in eukaryotic cell studies and a major component in many food and biotechnological industrial processes. However, the wide knowledge regarding genetics and molecular biology of S. cerevisiae is based on an extremely narrow range of strains. Studies of natural populations of S. cerevisiae, not associated with human activities or industrial fermentation environments, are very few. We isolated a panel of S. cerevisiae strains from a natural microsite, "Evolution Canyon" at Mount Carmel, Israel, and studied their genomic biodiversity. Analysis of 19 microsatellite loci revealed high allelic diversity and variation in ploidy level across the panel, from diploids to tetraploids, confirmed by flow cytometry. No significant differences were found in the level of microsatellite variation between strains derived from the major localities or microniches, whereas strains of different ploidy showed low similarity in allele content. Maximum genetic diversity was observed among diploids and minimum among triploids. Phylogenetic analysis revealed clonal, rather than sexual, structure of the triploid and tetraploid subpopulations. Viability tests in tetrad analysis also suggest that clonal reproduction may predominate in the polyploid subpopulations.