Three strains of moderately thermophilic, sulfur-reducing bacteria were isolated from shallow-water hot vents of the Bay of Plenty (New Zealand) and Matupi Harbour (Papua New Guinea). Cells of all isolates were short, Gram-negative, motile rods with one polar flagellum. All strains were obligate anaerobes and grew optimally at pH 5.8-6.2, 52-54 degrees C and 2.5-3% (w/v) NaCl. Growth substrates were molecular hydrogen, acetate and saturated fatty acids; one of the strains, isolated from Matupi Harbour, was able to utilize ethanol. Elemental sulfur was required for growth. H2S and CO2 were the only growth products. No growth occurred in the absence of 100 mg yeast extract I-1. The G+C content of the DNA determined for the type strain MH2T was 40.4 mol%. Results of 16S rDNA sequencing indicated that these strains represent a distinct lineage most closely related to the genus Desulfurella. On the basis of the results of morphological, physiological and phylogenetic studies, a new genus, Hippea gen. nov., is proposed with the type species Hippea maritima gen. nov., sp. nov., of which the type strain is MH2T (= DSM 10411T).