In this paper, we show that a wide variety of common soil bacteria are able to obtain their carbon and energy needs from tholin (a class of complex organic heteropolymers thought to be widely distributed through the solar system; in this case tholin was produced by passage of electrical discharge through a mixture of methane, ammonia, and water vapor). We have isolated aerobic, anaerobic, and facultatively anaerobic bacteria which are able to use tholin as a sole carbon source. Organisms which metabolize tholin represent a variety of bacterial genera including Clostridium, Pseudomonas, Bacillus, Acinetobacter, Paracoccus, Alcaligenes, Micrococcus, Cornebacterium, Aerobacter, Arthrobacter, Flavobacterium,and Actinomyces. Aerobic tholin-using bacteria were firrst isolated from soils containing unusual or sparse carbon sources. Some of these organisms were found to be facultatively anaerobic. Strictly anaerobic tholin-using bacteria were isolated from both carbon-rich and carbon-poor anaerobic lake muds. In addition, both aerobic and anaerobic tholin-using bacteria were isolated from common soil collected outside the laboratory building. Some, but not all, of the strains that were able to obtain carbon from tholin were also able to obtain their nitrogen requirements from tholin. Bacteria isolated from common soils were tested for their ability to obtain carbon from the water-soluble fraction, the ethanol-soluble fraction, and the water/ethanol-insoluble fraction of the tholin. Of the 3.5 × 10 7 bacteria isolated per gram of common soils, 1.7 0.5, and 0.2%, respectively, were able to obtaib their carbon requirements from the water-soluble fraction, the ethanol-soluble fraction and the water/ethanol-insoluble fraction of the tholin. The palatability of tholins to modern microbes may have implications for the early evolution of microbial life on Earth. Tholins may have formed the base of the food chain for an early heterotrophic biosphere before the evolution of autotrophy on the early Earth. Where tholins are present on other planets, they could possibly be metabolized by contaminant microorganisms transported to these bodies via spacecraft. Thus, the presence of tholins should be taken into account when evaluating the planetary quarantine requirements for probes to other planets.