The biodegradability of diamondoids was investigated using a collection of crude oil samples from the San Joaquin Valley, California, that had been biodegraded to varying extent in the reservoir. Our results show that diamondoids are subjected to biodegradation, which is selective as well as stepwise. Adamantanes are generally more susceptible to biodegradation than other diamondoids, such as diamantanes and triamantanes. We report a possible pathway for the microbial degradation of adamantane. This cage hydrocarbon possibly breaks down to a metabolic intermediate through the action of microbes at higher levels of biodegradation in petroleum reservoirs. Microbial alteration has only a minor effect on diamondoid abundance in oil at low levels of biodegradation. Our results suggest that most diamondoids (with the exception of adamantane) are resistant to biodegradation, like the polycyclic terpanes (e.g. C19-C24 tricyclic terpanes, hopanes, gammacerane, oleananes, Ts, Tm, C29 Ts), steranes and diasteranes. Microbial alteration of diamondoids has a negligible impact on the quantification of oil cracking achieved using the diamondoid-biomarker method. ?? 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.