Biofilm microbial communities play an important role in the larval settlement response of marine invertebrates. However, the underlying mechanism has yet to be resolved, mainly because of the uncertainties in characterizing members in the communities using traditional 16S rRNA gene-based molecular methods and in identifying the chemical signals involved. In this study, pyrosequencing was used to characterize the bacterial communities in intertidal and subtidal marine biofilms developed during two seasons. We revealed highly diverse biofilm bacterial communities that varied with season and tidal level. Over 3,000 operational taxonomic units with estimates of up to 8,000 species were recovered in a biofilm sample, which is by far the highest number recorded in subtropical marine biofilms. Nineteen phyla were found, of which Cyanobacteria and Proteobacteria were the most dominant one in the intertidal and subtidal biofilms, respectively. Apart from these, Actinobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Planctomycetes were the major groups recovered in both intertidal and subtidal biofilms, although their relative abundance varied among samples. Full-length 16S rRNA gene clone libraries were constructed for the four biofilm samples and showed similar bacterial compositions at the phylum level to those revealed by pyrosequencing. Laboratory assays confirmed that cyrids of the barnacle Balanus amphitrite preferred to settle on the intertidal rather than subtidal biofilms. This preference was independent of the biofilm bacterial density or biomass but was probably related to the biofilm community structure, particularly, the Proteobacterial and Cyanobacterial groups. © 2014 Springer Science+Business Media New York.