The poles constitute 14% of the Earth’s biosphere: The aquatic Arctic surrounded by land in the north, and the frozen Antarctic continent surrounded by the Southern Ocean. In spite of an extremely cold climate in addition to varied topographies, the polar aquatic regions are teeming with microbial life. Even in sub-glacial regions, cellular life has adapted to these extreme environments where perhaps there are traces of early microbes on Earth. As grazing by macrofauna is limited in most of these polar regions, viruses are being recognized for their role as important agents of mortality, thereby influencing the biogeochemical cycling of nutrients that, in turn, impact community dynamics at seasonal and spatial scales. Here, we review the viral diversity in aquatic polar regions that has been discovered in the last decade, most of which has been revealed by advances in genomics-enabled technologies, and we reflect on the vast extent of the still-to-be explored polar microbial diversity and its “enigmatic virosphere”.
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