Solar radiation represents a key abiotic factor in the evolution of life in the oceans. In general, marine, biota—particularly in euphotic and dysphotic zones—depends directly or indirectly on light, but ultraviolet radiation (UV-R) can damage vital molecular machineries. UV-R induces the formation of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and impairs intracellular structures and enzymatic reactions. It can also affect organismal physiologies and eventually alter trophic chains at the ecosystem level. In Antarctica, physical drivers, such as sunlight, sea-ice, seasonality and low temperature are particularly influencing as compared to other regions. The springtime ozone depletion over the Southern Ocean makes organisms be more vulnerable to UV-R. Nonetheless, Antarctic species seem to possess analogous UV photoprotection and repair mechanisms as those found in organisms from other latitudes. The lack of data on species-specific responses towards increased UV-B still limits the understanding about the ecological impact and the tolerance levels related to ozone depletion in this region. The photobiology of Antarctic biota is largely unknown, in spite of representing a highly promising reservoir in the discovery of novel cosmeceutical products. This review compiles the most relevant information on photoprotection and UV-repair processes described in organisms from the Southern Ocean, in the context of this unique marine polar environment.
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