In an attempt to improve the understanding of the natural variability and distribution of trace elements in Antarctic organisms, the concentrations of arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, manganese, nickel, vanadium and zinc in representative benthic species from two pristine coastal environments were measured and compared with literature data for other uncontaminated coastal ecosystems. Correlations between the elements, differences between the species and between the sampling sites were examined by principal component analysis. Metal accumulation was particularly evident in the tissues of the sea star Odontaster validus, the bivalve mollusc Laternula elliptica and in the red alga Phyllophora antarctica. However, metal accumulation was not the same for all the analytes, but, rather, depended on the organism characteristics. In particular, the soft tissues of Odontaster validus were characterized by high concentrations of cadmium, zinc and copper, those of Phyllophora antarctica by high concentrations of manganese and nickel, and the tissues of Laternula elliptica by high concentrations of all measured elements, particularly in its digestive gland. The Antarctic data as well as those reported for other pristine coastal ecosystems showed remarkably high natural variability in metal content, which must be taken into account when interpreting results from biomonitoring programmes.