Protozoan grazers play an important role in controlling the density of crude-oil degrading marine communities as has been evidenced in a number of microcosm experiments. However, small bioreactors contain a low initial titre of protozoa and the growth of hydrocarbon-depleting bacteria is accompanied by the fast depletion of mineral nutrients and oxygen, which makes microcosms rather unsuitable for simulating the sequence of events after the oil spill in natural seawater environment. In the present study, the population dynamics of marine protozoan community have been analysed in a 500 l mesocosm experiment involving bioaugmented oil booms that contained oil sorbents and slow-release fertilisers. A significant increase in numbers of marine flagellates and ciliates on biofilms of oil-degrading microbes was microscopically observed as early as 8 days after the start of the experiment, when protozoa exhibited a population density peak making up to 3,000 cells ml(-1). Further, the protozoan density varied throughout the experiment, but never dropped below 80 cells ml(-1). An 18S rRNA gene-based fingerprinting analysis revealed several changes within the eukaryotic community over the whole course of the experiment. Initial growth of flagellates and small ciliates was followed by a predominance of larger protozoa. According to microscopic observations and SSU rRNA molecular analyses, most predominant were the ciliates belonging to Euplotidae and Scuticociliatia. This is the first study to characterise the eukaryotic communities specifically in a large-scale oil bioremediation trial using both microscopy-based and several molecular techniques.