Analysis of the pigments extracted from solar saltern crystallizer ponds in Santa Pola near Alicante and on the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain, showed that 5-7.5% of the total prokaryotic pigment absorbance could be attributed to a novel carotenoid or carotenoid-like compound. This unidentified pigment was identical to the sole pigment present in Salinibacter ruber, the only described member of a newly discovered genus of red halophilic Bacteria related to the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides group. On the basis of fluorescence in situ hybridization experiments it has been shown that Salinibacter is an important component of the microbial community of Spanish saltern ponds. The red color of saltern crystallizer ponds may thus not only be due to red halophilic Archaea and to beta-carotene-rich Dunaliella cells as previously assumed, but may contain a bacterial contribution as well. The Salinibacter pigment was not detected in samples collected from crystallizer ponds of the salterns of Eilat, Israel, and only traces of it may have been present in the Newark, CA, USA, salterns. The community structure of the prokaryote community inhabiting saltern crystallizers thus shows significant geographic variations. Polar lipid analyses of the biomass collected from the Santa Pola salterns showed that the total contribution of Salinibacter and other Bacteria to the total biomass was minor, the most important component of the community being halophilic Archaea.