Data on the growth (20 species) and productivity (19 species) of Antarctic and subantarctic macrobenthos were compiled from published and unpublished sources. Differences in the production/biomass (P/B) ratio between Antarctic, Arctic and non-polar populations were examined using a set of 363 data arrays (327 non-polar, 26 Antarctic, 10 Arctic). Each array contained annual P/B ratio, mean individual body mass, geographical latitude, water depth, bottom water temperature and the nominal variables TAXON (Mollusca, Crustacea, Polychaeta, Echinodermata) and REGION (Antarctic, Arctic, non-polar). The P/B ratio was found to vary with body mass, taxon, temperature and water depth. P/B ratios of Antarctic and Arctic populations were significantly lower than those of non-polar populations. For Antarctic populations this difference could be explained completely by the effects of temperature and water depth. The strikingly high biomass of many Antarctic benthic communities is probably related to adaptations to low and oscillating food levels, and particularly to the low maintenance energy requirement associated with the low ambient temperature.