We investigated amino acids and pigments in particles settling through the water column of the Southern Ocean and showed that spatial and temporal differences in phytoplankton source and consumer population influence sinking particle composition. Sediment traps were deployed along 170°W from November 1996 to March 1998 as part of the United States Joint Global Ocean Flux Study (US JGOFS) ... [Show full abstract] Antarctic Environment Southern Ocean Process Study (AESOPS) program. Peak fluxes of amino acids and pigments occurred during austral spring and summer (November–April) and were highest in the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Compositional changes in pigments and total hydrolyzed amino acids demonstrate how the source of sinking particles varies with latitude and suggest that sinking material was most degraded in relatively diatom-depleted regions and toward the end of the high-flux period (February–March). At the Subantarctic Front, high proportions of pheophytin and β-alanine illustrate the important role of microbes in degradation. Further south at the Antarctic Polar Front, glycine, pyropheophorbide, and pheophorbide enrichments reflected a greater contribution of diatoms and greater processing by zooplankton grazers. Even further south in the ACC, enrichments of the diatom pigment fucoxanthin, diatom cell wall indicators glycine and serine, and diatom frustule-bound amino acids suggested the settling of empty frustules and aggregates. Despite being protected by the mineral, diatom-bound amino acids were not preferentially preserved between shallow and deep traps, possibly because of silica dissolution and a relatively small amount of organic carbon remineralization. Our results show that organic matter at diatom-rich stations is removed by mechanisms that do not result in the appearance of organic matter degradation indicators. Recent observations that calcium carbonate has a higher carrying capacity for sinking organic matter than silica may be related to diatom silicification, physiological status and decomposition pathway.