In the light of the predicted global climate change, it is essential that the status and diversity of polar microbial communities is described and understood. In the present study, molecular tools were used to investigate the marine eukaryotic communities of Prydz Bay, Eastern Antarctica, from November 2002 to January 2003. Additionally, we conducted four series of minicosm experiments, where natural Prydz Bay communities were incubated under six different irradiation regimes, in order to investigate the effects of natural UV radiation on marine microbial eukaryotes. Denaturing gradient gel electrophoresis (DGGE) and 18S rRNA gene sequencing revealed a eukaryotic Shannon diversity index averaging 2.26 and 2.12, respectively. Phylogenetic analysis of 472 sequenced clones revealed 47 phylotypes, belonging to the Dinophyceae, Stramenopiles, Choanoflagellidae, Ciliophora, Cercozoa and Metazoa. Throughout the studied period, three communities were distinguished: a postwinter/early spring community comprising dinoflagellates, ciliates, cercozoans, stramenopiles, viridiplantae, haptophytes and metazoans; a dinoflagellate-dominated community; and a diatom-dominated community that developed after sea ice breakup. DGGE analysis showed that size fraction and time had a strong shaping effect on the community composition; however, a significant contribution of natural UV irradiance towards microeukaryotic community composition could not be detected. Overall, dinoflagellates dominated our samples and their diversity suggests that they fulfill an important role in Antarctic coastal marine ecosystems preceding ice breakup as well as between phytoplankton bloom events.