The community structure of pink-colored microbial mats naturally occurring in a swine wastewater ditch was studied by culture-independent biomarker and molecular methods as well as by conventional cultivation methods. The wastewater in the ditch contained acetate and propionate as the major carbon nutrients. Thin-section electron microscopy revealed that the microbial mats were dominated by rod-shaped cells containing intracytoplasmic membranes of the lamellar type. Smaller numbers of oval cells with vesicular internal membranes were also found. Spectroscopic analyses of the cell extract from the biomats showed the presence of bacteriochlorophyll a and carotenoids of the spirilloxanthin series. Ubiquinone-10 was detected as the major quinone. A clone library of the photosynthetic gene, pufM, constructed from the bulk DNA of the biomats showed that all of the clones were derived from members of the genera Rhodobacter and Rhodopseudomonas. The dominant phototrophic bacteria from the microbial mats were isolated by cultivation methods and identified as being of the genera Rhodobacter and Rhodopseudomonas by studying 16S rRNA and pufM gene sequence information. Experiments of oxygen uptake with lower fatty acids revealed that the freshly collected microbial mats and the Rhodopseudomonas isolates had a wider spectrum of carbon utilization and a higher affinity for acetate than did the Rhodobacter isolates. These results demonstrate that the microbial mats were dominated by the purple nonsulfur bacteria of the genera Rhodobacter and Rhodopseudomonas, and the bioavailability of lower fatty acids in wastewater is a key factor allowing the formation of visible microbial mats with these phototrophs.