Earthworms emit nitrous oxide (N2O) and dinitrogen (N2). It has been hypothesized that the in situ conditions of the earthworm gut activates ingested soil denitrifiers during gut passage and leads to these in vivo emissions (M. A. Horn, A. Schramm, and H. L. Drake, Appl. Environ. Microbiol. 69:1662-1669, 2003). This hypothesis implies that the denitrifiers in the earthworm gut are not endemic to the gut but rather are regular members of the soil denitrifier population. To test this hypothesis, the denitrifier populations of gut and soil from three different sites were comparatively assessed by sequence analysis of nosZ, the gene for the terminal enzyme in denitrification, N2O reductase. A total of 182 and 180 nosZ sequences were retrieved from gut and soil, respectively; coverage of gene libraries was 79 to 100%. Many of the nosZ sequences were heretofore unknown, clustered with known soil-derived sequences, or were related to N2O reductases of the genera Bradyrhizobium, Brucella, Dechloromonas, Flavobacterium, Pseudomonas, Ralstonia, and Sinorhizobium. Although the numbers of estimators for genotype richness of sequence data from the gut were higher than those of soil, only one gut-derived nosZ sequence did not group phylogenetically with any of the soil-derived nosZ sequences. Thus, the phylogenies of nosZ from gut and soil were not dissimilar, indicating that gut denitrifiers are soil derived.