The abundance, spatial distribution and diversity of class Flavobacteria were investigated in the Southern Ocean euphotic zone across a latitudinal transect and in the ice pack off Eastern Antarctica. Surface seawater samples filter-fractionated into 0.8 mum particulate and 0.2 m planktonic fractions were investigated with different molecular techniques. The abundance of particle-associated Flavobacteria, ascertained with real-time PCR and DGGE band analysis using Flavobacteria-specific primers, was found to be significantly higher in Polar Front Zone (PFZ) and Antarctic Zone (AZ) water samples than in nutrient limited Temperate Zone (TZ) and Sub-Antarctic Zone (SAZ) waters. Abundance of particle-associated Flavobacteria correlated positively with seawater chlorophyll a and nutrient concentrations, suggesting that increased Flavobacteria abundance may relate to enhanced primary production in the PFZ and AZ. This is supported by comparison of DGGE profiles that demonstrated significant differences in the total Flavobacteria community structure and 16S rRNA gene diversity between samples from the PFZ and AZ and those from TZ and SAZ. Sequence analysis revealed a broad diversity amongst class Flavobacteria in the Southern Ocean with several Flavobacteria clades detected in PFZ and AZ waters not detected in TZ and SAZ waters that putatively represent psychrophilic taxa. Sequence data included a large, so far uncultivated, cosmopolitan phylogenetic clade ("DE cluster 2") that is distributed throughout the Southern Ocean.