Methanogenic community structure and dynamics were investigated in two different, replicated anaerobic wastewater treatment reactor configurations [inverted fluidized bed (IFB) and expanded granular sludge bed (EGSB)] treating synthetic dairy wastewater, during operating temperature transitions from 37 degrees C to 25 degrees C, and from 25 degrees C to 15 degrees C, over a 430-day trial. Non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMS) and moving-window analyses, based on quantitative real-time PCR data, along with denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) profiling, demonstrated that the methanogenic communities developed in a different manner in these reactor configurations. A comparable level of performance was recorded for both systems at 37 degrees C and 25 degrees C, but a more dynamic and diverse microbial community in the IFB reactors supported better stability and adaptative capacity towards low temperature operation. The emergence and maintenance of particular bacterial genotypes (phylum Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes) was associated with efficient protein hydrolysis in the IFB, while protein hydrolysis was inefficient in the EGSB. A significant community shift from a Methanobacteriales and Methanosaetaceae towards a Methanomicrobiales-predominated community was demonstrated during operation at 15 degrees C in both reactor configurations.