Palmaria decipiens (Reinsch) R.W. Ricker (1987) represents one of the dominant rhodophyte species in Antarctic coastal ecosystems. Due to its high abundance in the intertidal and upper subtidal it plays a key role in ecosystem structure and function, providing habitat, food and shelter for a multitude of associated organisms. The physiology, reproductive strategy and life cycle of P. decipiens is considered as being well adapted to the Antarctic environment, which is characterized by permanent low water temperatures and a strong seasonality in light climate. With its obvious ecological significance and adaptive strategies P. decipiens was frequently studied as a typical representative of an endemic Antarctic macroalga. Here we provide an overview of the recent literature, summarizing the knowledge gained about the alga during the last 25 years. This review focuses on the species life cycle and physiological responses, such as temperature requirements, photosynthetic characteristics, pigment content and protective mechanisms with regard to enhanced ultraviolet radiation (UV-B radiation, 280–315 nm and UV-A radiation, 315–400 nm). The ecology of P. decipiens is reviewed focussing on grazing activity and abundance patterns. Since most studies on P. decipiens have been conducted at King George Island off the western Antarctic Peninsula this overview serves as a summary of baseline data from an ecosystem particularly prone to environmental change.