The documentation and analysis of broad-scale biological diversity requires modern databases. Here we describe the SCAR-Marine Biodiversity Information Network (SCAR-MarBIN) and demonstrate its value with a preliminary analysis of geographic patterns in species richness for a variety of marine taxa. SCAR-MarBIN is a web portal (www.scarmarbin.be) that compiles and manages existing and new information on Antarctic marine biodiversity; it currently links over 140 datasets comprising over one million records. The portal is home to the Registry of Antarctic Marine Species (RAMS), an authoritative taxonomic list of marine species occurring in Antarctica. RAMS is a key resource for the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML), a major five-year project that aims at assessing the nature, distribution and abundance of Southern Ocean biological diversity. SCAR-MarBIN provides a means of quantifying not only the diversity and distribution of Antarctic marine life but also a record of how, when and where these have been studied. It allows for the examination of geographic and bathymetric ranges, the documentation of gaps within and limits to the data, together with the identification of areas of particularly high diversity (hotspots) and also under-sampled regions or taxa. A preliminary analysis indicates that the pattern of sampling hotspots is driven principally by the pelagic data, mainly bird and mammal observations, whereas benthic species drive the overall pattern in species richness. Analyses of the complete data set reveal important biases in the data: most samples have been taken in shallow water (<700 m) and are either concentrated around shore-based research stations, or in the open ocean close to regular ship transit routes. These data provide a useful benchmark for the future, enabling ventures such as CAML to assess their impact on knowledge of biological diversity. It also highlights key areas for further investigation, such as the deep sea and the Amundsen Sea.