The taxonomy of the yeast genus Metschnikowia has undergone profound changes over the past century. Major developments, from the capacity to obtain pure cultures of parasitic species to progress associated with the extensive use of molecular biology tools in yeast systematics, are briefly reviewed. Results from past work and new data are combined to evaluate evolutionary relationships and clarify the classification of both terrestrial and aquatic species. Recent physiological studies, including the utilization of non-conventional carbon and nitrogen sources, and characteristics like lipolytic activity and maximum temperatures for growth, are presented. The assessment of the genetic diversity within the genus by restriction analysis of the mitochondrial DNA and by the production of specific DNA probes has been explored. The results indicate the potential application of the latter in rapid identification procedures.