Microbial fuel cell (MFC) anode communities often reveal just a few genera, but it is not known to what extent less abundant bacteria could be important for improving performance. We examined the microbial community in an MFC fed with formic acid for more than 1 year and determined using 16S rRNA gene cloning and fluorescent in situ hybridization that members of the Paracoccus genus comprised most (~30%) of the anode community. A Paracoccus isolate obtained from this biofilm (Paracoccus denitrificans strain PS-1) produced only 5.6 mW/m 2, whereas the original mixed culture produced up to 10 mW/m 2. Despite the absence of any Shewanella species in the clone library, we isolated a strain of Shewanella putrefaciens (strain PS-2) from the same biofilm capable of producing a higher-power density (17.4 mW/m2) than the mixed culture, although voltage generation was variable. Our results suggest that the numerical abundance of microorganisms in biofilms cannot be assumed a priori to correlate to capacities of these predominant species for high-power production. Detailed screening of bacterial biofilms may therefore be needed to identify important strains capable of high-power generation for specific substrates. © 2010 Springer-Verlag.