Five strains of facultatively anaerobic moderately thermophilic bacteria were isolated from two hot springs in the intertidal zone of Lutao, Taiwan. They produced extracellular agarase on agar medium, yielding reducing sugars and organic acids as the end products under either aerobic or anaerobic conditions. The growth temperature range was approximately 38-58 degrees C with an optimal temperature of about 48 degrees C. The five strains tolerated a relatively narrow pH range from 7.0 to 8.5. They were Gram-negative halophiles growing optimally at 2.0-2.5% NaCl (ca. 0.34-0.43 M). They were capable of anaerobic growth by fermenting glucose and producing various organic acids such as butyrate, propionate, formate, lactate, and acetate. Cells grown in liquid medium were motile monotrichous cocci, normally 0.8-0.9 micron in diameter. They possessed saturated anteiso-15-carbon acid (anteiso-C15:0) as the most abundant cellular fatty acid (46.0-51.3 mo1%) and had G + C contents ranging from 65.5 to 67.0 mo1%. They are the first thermophiles found to degrade agar and also the first halophilic thermophilic bacteria known to be capable of both aerobic and anaerobic fermentative growth. These bacteria are considered to represent a new genus that we named Alterococcus, and Alterococcus agarolyticus is the type species.