Unusual long-chain, diunsaturated alkenones and alkyl alkenoates exhibiting double bonds separated by three methylene units instead of the more usual five were characterized by electron ionization (EI) gas chromatography/mass spectrometry. In a first step, the positions of the double bonds of these compounds (isolated from Holocene Black Sea sediments) were confirmed after OsO4 treatment and silylation. Mass spectra of the resulting tetratrimethylsilyloxy derivatives allowed unambiguous determination of the positions of unsaturations. The EI mass spectra of the non-derivatized compounds were then compared with those of the alkenones and alkyl alkenoates having double bonds separated by five methylene units. Specific fragment ions resulting from γ-H rearrangements were found to be prominent in EI mass spectra of these unusual ‘Black Sea’ diunsaturated alkenones and alkyl alkenoates. These fragment ions can be used to characterize these compounds in natural samples without the need for laborious derivatization treatments. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.