Researchers in the field of molecular ecology and evolution require versatile and low-cost genetic typing methods. The AFLP (amplified fragment length polymorphism) method was introduced 10 years ago and shows many features that fulfil these requirements. With good quality genomic DNA at hand, it is relatively easy to generate anonymous multilocus DNA profiles in most species and the start-up time before data can be generated is often less than a week. Built-in dynamic, yet simple modifications make it possible to find a protocol suitable to the genome size of the species and to screen thousands of loci in hundreds of individuals for a relatively low cost. Until now, the method has primarily been applied in studies of plants, bacteria and fungi, with a strong bias towards economically important cultivated species and their pests. In this review we identify a number of research areas in the study of wild species of animals where the AFLP method, presently very much underused, should be a very valuable tool. These aspects include classical problems such as studies of population genetic structure and phylogenetic reconstructions, and also new challenges such as finding markers for genes governing adaptations in wild populations and modifications of the protocol that makes it possible to measure expression variation of multiple genes (cDNA-AFLP) and the distribution of DNA methylation. We hope this review will help molecular ecologists to identify when AFLP is likely to be superior to other more established methods, such as microsatellites, SNP (single nucleotide polymorphism) analyses and multigene DNA sequencing.