Species of the widespread marine prokaryote Prochlorococcus exhibited ultradian growth (faster than 1 division per day) both in situ and in culture, even though cell division is strictly phased to the light-dark cycle. Under optimal conditions a second DNA replication and cell division closely followed, but did not overlap with, the first division. The timing of cell cycle events was not affected by light intensity or duration, suggesting control by a light-triggered timer or circadian clock rather than by completion of a light-dependent assimilation phase. This mode of ultradian growth has not been observed previously and poses new questions about the regulation of cellular rhythms in prokaryotes. In addition, it implies that conclusions regarding the lack of nutrient limitation of Prochlorococcus in the open ocean, which were based on the appearance that cells were growing at their maximal rate, need to be reconsidered.