Treatment of 4-methylcholest-4-ene under mild acid conditions at low temperatures gives chemical evidence for certain features seen in the distributions of sedimentary 4-methyl steroid hydrocarbons, and further indicates that many low temperature diagenetic reactions of steroids are explicable in terms of acid catalysed rearrangements. Specifically, the results provide: (i) Indirect evidence that the 4-ene skeleton is a key intermediate in the dehydration of 4-methyl stanols in sediments. (ii) An explanation for the distribution of 4-methyl sterenes and A-nor sterenes in the lacustrine Messel shale (Eocene). (iii) An explanation for the presence of 4β-methyl steranes in relatively immature sedimentary rocks, despite the precursor stanols having the 4α-methyl configuration. With increasing maturity in the Paris Basin shales (Lower Toarcian), the less stable 4β-methyl steranes decrease gradually in abundance relative to their 4α-methyl counterparts, at a rate fairly similar to the change in pristane stereochemistry.