This study investigates the oxidation of labeled methane (CH4) and the CH4 dependence of sulfate reduction in three types of anaerobic granular sludge. In all samples, 13C-labeled CH4 was anaerobically oxidized to 13C-labeled CO2, while net endogenous CH4 production was observed. Labeled-CH4 oxidation rates followed CH4 production rates, and the presence of sulfate hampered both labeled-CH4 oxidation and methanogenesis. Labeled-CH4 oxidation was therefore linked to methanogenesis. This process is referred to as trace CH4 oxidation and has been demonstrated in methanogenic pure cultures. This study shows that the ratio between labeled-CH4 oxidation and methanogenesis is positively affected by the CH4 partial pressure and that this ratio is in methanogenic granular sludge more than 40 times higher than that in pure cultures of methanogens. The CH4 partial pressure also positively affected sulfate reduction and negatively affected methanogenesis: a repression of methanogenesis at elevated CH4 partial pressures confers an advantage to sulfate reducers that compete with methanogens for common substrates, formed from endogenous material. The oxidation of labeled CH 4 and the CH4 dependence of sulfate reduction are thus not necessarily evidence of anaerobic oxidation of CH4 coupled to sulfate reduction. © 2010 Federation of European Microbiological Societies.