Highly variable DNA polymorphisms called microsatellites are rapidly becoming the marker of choice in population genetic studies. Until now, microsatellites have not been utilized for Drosophila studies. We have identified eight polymorphic microsatellite loci in Drosophila melanogaster and used them to characterize the genetic variation in a wild population from the Tyrrell's winery in Australia. Microsatellites were isolated from a partial genomic DNA library. All microsatellites consist of (AC)n repeats ranging from n = 2 to n = 24. Six loci were assigned to chromosomal location by genetic mapping, with three loci on chromosome II, one locus on chromosome III and two loci on the X chromosome. Up to four microsatellite loci were multiplexed in the same reaction. Microsatellite variation is substantially greater than allozyme variation in the Tyrrell's Drosophila population. 80% of the microsatellite loci examined are polymorphic, compared with 28% of allozymes. The mean number of alleles per polymorphic locus is 5·2 in microsatellites compared with 3·0 in allozymes. The average observed heterozygosity of polymorphic microsatellites is 47% compared with 26% for allozymes. Microsatellite variation in Drosophila melanogaster is similar to that reported for other insects. Higher variability commends microsatellites over allozymes for genetic studies in Drosophila melanogaster.