Microbial mats, growing in Antarctic lakes constitute unique and very diverse habitats. In these mats microorganisms are confronted with extreme life conditions. We isolated 746 bacterial strains from mats collected from ten lakes in the Dry Valleys (lakes Hoare and Fryxell), the Vestfold Hills (lakes Ace, Druzhby, Grace, Highway, Pendant, Organic and Watts) and the Larsemann Hills (lake Reid), using heterotrophic growth conditions. These strains were investigated by fatty acid analysis, and by numerical analysis, 41 clusters, containing 2 to 77 strains, could be delineated, whereas 31 strains formed single branches. Several fatty acid groups consisted of strains from different lakes from the same region, or from different regions. The 16S rRNA genes from 40 strains, representing 35 different fatty acid groups were sequenced. The strains belonged to the alpha, beta and gamma subclasses of the Proteobacteria, the high and low percent G+C Gram-positives, and to the Cytophaga-Flavobacterium-Bacteroides branch. For strains representing 16 fatty acid clusters, validly named nearest phylogenetic neighbours showed pairwise sequence similarities of less than 97%. This indicates that the clusters they represent, belong to taxa that have not been sequenced yet or as yet unnamed new taxa, related to Alteromonas, Bacillus, Clavibacter, Cyclobacterium, Flavobacterium, Marinobacter, Mesorhizobium, Microbacterium, Pseudomonas, Saligentibacter, Sphingomonas and Sulfitobacter.