The metaviromes of two distinct Antarctic hyperarid desert soil communities have been characterized. Hypolithic communities,
cyanobacterium-dominated assemblages situated on the ventral surfaces of quartz pebbles embedded in the desert pavement,
showed higher virus diversity than surface soils, which correlated with previous bacterial community studies. Prokaryotic viruses
(i.e., phages) represented the largest viral component (particularly Mycobacterium phages) in both habitats, with an identical
hierarchical sequence abundance of families of tailed phages (Siphoviridae>Myoviridae>Podoviridae). No archaeal viruses
were found. Unexpectedly, cyanophages were poorly represented in both metaviromes and were phylogenetically distant from
currently characterized cyanophages. Putative phage genomes were assembled and showed a high level of unaffiliated genes,
mostly from hypolithic viruses. Moreover, unusual gene arrangements in which eukaryotic and prokaryotic virus-derived genes
were found within identical genome segments were observed. Phycodnaviridae and Mimiviridae viruses were the second-mostabundant
taxa and more numerous within open soil. Novel virophage-like sequences (within the Sputnik clade) were identified.
These findings highlight high-level virus diversity and novel species discovery potential within Antarctic hyperarid soils and may
serve as a starting point for future studies targeting specific viral groups.