A warming climate means big changes for polar wildlife, including the polar regions’ smallest residents. Unfortunately, we have a limited understanding of how polar microbiota adapt to their environments and lack functional studies linking genetics to metabolic traits needed for adaptation. A recent study evaluated microbiota in 60 seawater samples collected from several Arctic and Antarctic regions as well as data from the Tara Oceans project. Using metagenomic sequencing, researchers identified the locally enriched strains in each polar region, which differed from those in temperate locations. The results revealed that these microbes differed in the metabolic pathways needed to adapt to their unique environments. Interestingly, antibiotic resistance genes were enriched in the Arctic, while DNA recombination functions were enriched in the Antarctic. This suggests that polar microbiota are enriched in species with unique functional traits for environmental adaptation, providing a more comprehensive picture of the changing ocean microbiome.