The microbial populations of the rumens of seaweed-fed and pasture-fed Orkney sheep were examined. The populations in the pasture-fed sheep were similar to those of other domestic ruminants fed on land plants, but those of the seaweed-fed animals showed major differences in the dominant species. Total ciliate populations were quantitatively similar, but in the seaweed-fed animals Dasytricha ruminantium was one of the most dominant species. No phycomycete fungi or cellulolytic bacteria were found in the seaweed-fed animals, and the bacterial population was dominated by Streptococcus bovis, Selenomonas ruminantium, But yrivibrio fibrisol-vens and lactate-utilizing species. Electron microscopy revealed that spirochaetes and an unidentified filamentous bacterium were probably of major significance in seaweed digestion. The ability of bacterial strains from both groups of animals to metabolize plant and algal constituents was examined.