Oil-rich sediments from the Gulf of Mexico were found to contain diverse alkane-degrading groups of archaea. The symbiotic, consortium-forming “
Argoarchaeum” and “
Syntrophoarchaeum” are likely responsible for the degradation of ethane and short-chain alkanes, with the help of sulfate-reducing bacteria. “
Methanoliparia” occurs as single cells associated with oil droplets. These archaea encode two phylogenetically different methyl-coenzyme M reductases that may allow this organism to thrive as a methanogen on a substrate of long-chain alkanes. Based on a library survey, we show that “
” is frequently detected in oil reservoirs and may be a key agent in the transformation of long-chain alkanes to methane. Our findings provide evidence for the important and diverse roles of archaea in alkane-rich marine habitats and support the notion of a significant functional versatility of the methyl coenzyme M reductase.