TitleLithobionts: Cryptic and refuge nichesAbstractLithic-associated microhabitats, referred to as lithobiontic ecological niches and their communities are termed lithobionts. Lithic niches are widely dispersed in Antarctica and allow microbial communities to circumvent environmental stressors such as temperature fluctuations, low moisture levels, and high ultraviolet radiation. Here, we assess the status of research on the three recognized classes of lithobiont communities (epiliths, hypoliths and endoliths). We describe the microbial diversity of lithobionts, the factors that influence colonization, and the roles played by these communities in the Antarctic soil ecosystem. In order to understand community dynamics, such as beta-diversity patterns and factors that drive them, we advocate the application of omics-based approaches that can reveal both the functional capacities and adaptive potentials of complex microbial communities. c 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. All rights reserved.