Certain foraminiferal species are abundant within the chemocline of marine sediments. Ultrastructurally, most of these species possess numerous peroxisomes complexed with the endoplasmic reticulum (ER); mitochondria are often interspersed among these complexes. In the Santa Barbara Basin, pore-water bathing Foraminifera and co-occurring sulfur-oxidizing microbial mats had micromolar levels of hydrogen peroxide (H(2)O(2)), a reactive oxygen species that can be detrimental to biological membranes. Experimental results indicate that adenosine triphosphate concentrations are significantly higher in Foraminifera incubated in 16 microM H(2)O(2) than in specimens incubated in the absence of H(2)O(2). New ultrastructural and experimental observations, together with published results, lead us to propose that foraminiferans can utilize oxygen derived from the breakdown of environmentally and metabolically produced H(2)O(2). Such a capability could explain foraminiferal adaptation to certain chemically inhospitable environments; it would also force us to reassess the role of protists in biogeochemistry, especially with respect to hydrogen and iron. The ecology of these protists also appears to be tightly linked to the sulfur cycle. Finally, given that some Foraminifera bearing peroxisome-ER complexes belong to evolutionarily basal groups, an early acquisition of the capability to use environmental H(2)O(2) could have facilitated diversification of foraminiferans during the Neoproterozoic.