The Rimicaris exoculata dominates the megafauna of some of the Mid Atlantic ridge hydrothermal vent sites. This species harbors a rich community of bacterial epibionts inside its gill chamber. Literature data indicate that a single 16S rRNA phylotype dominates this epibiotic community, and is assumed to be a sulfide-oxidizing bacteria. However attempts Of Cultivation were not successful and did not allow to confirm it. The aim of our study was to test the hypothesis of sulfide oxidation in the gill chamber, by a multidisciplinary approach, using in vivo experiments at in situ pressure in the presence of sulfide, microscopic observations and a molecular survey. Morphology of microorganisms, before and after treatment, was analyzed to test the effect of sulfide depletion and re-exposure. Our observations, as well as molecular data indicate a wider diversity than previously described for this shrimp's epibiotic community. We observed occurrence of bacterial intracellular sulfur- and iron-enriched granules and some methanotrophic-like bacteria cells for the first time. Genes that are characteristic of methane-oxidizing (pmoA) and sulfide-oxidizing (APS) bacteria were identified. These results Suggest that three metabolic types (iron, sulfide and methane oxidation) may co-occur within the epibiont community associated with Rimicaris exoculata. As this shrimp colonizes chemically contrasted environments, the relative abundance of each metabolic type could vary according to the local availability of reduced compounds. (C) 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.