Much of the global cooling during ice ages arose from changes in ocean carbon storage that lowered atmospheric CO2. A slew of mechanisms, both physical and biological, have been proposed as key drivers of these changes. Here we discuss the current understanding of these mechanisms with a focus on how they altered the theoretically defined soft-tissue and biological disequilibrium carbon storage at the peak of the last ice age. Observations and models indicate a role for Antarctic sea ice through its influence on ocean circulation patterns, but other mechanisms, including changes in biological processes, must have been important as well, and may have been coordinated through links with global air temperature. Further research is required to better quantify the contributions of the various mechanisms, and there remains great potential to use the Last Glacial Maximum and the ensuing global warming as natural experiments from which to learn about climate-driven changes in the marine ecosystem.