Reflecting the diverse chemistry of plant cell walls, microorganisms that degrade these composite structures synthesize an array of glycoside hydrolases. These enzymes are organized into sequence-, mechanism-, and structure-based families. Genomic data have shown that several organisms that degrade the plant cell wall contain a large number of genes encoding family 43 (GH43) glycoside hydrolases. Here we report the biochemical properties of the GH43 enzymes of a saprophytic soil bacterium, Cellvibrio japonicus, and a human colonic symbiont, Bacteroides thetaiotaomicron. The data show that C. japonicus uses predominantly exo-acting enzymes to degrade arabinan into arabinose, whereas B. thetaiotaomicron deploys a combination of endo- and side chain-cleaving glycoside hydrolases. Both organisms, however, utilize an arabinan-specific α-1,2-arabinofuranosidase in the degradative process, an activity that has not previously been reported. The enzyme can cleave α-1,2-arabinofuranose decorations in single or double substitutions, the latter being recalcitrant to the action of other arabinofuranosidases. The crystal structure of the C. japonicus arabinan-specific α-1,2-arabinofuranosidase, CjAbf43A, displays a five-bladed β-propeller fold. The specificity of the enzyme for arabinan is conferred by a surface cleft that is complementary to the helical backbone of the polysaccharide. The specificity of CjAbf43A for α-1,2-l-arabinofuranose side chains is conferred by a polar residue that orientates the arabinan backbone such that O2 arabinose decorations are directed into the active site pocket. A shelflike structure adjacent to the active site pocket accommodates O3 arabinose side chains, explaining how the enzyme can target O2 linkages that are components of single or double substitutions.