The effect of light and dark on growth, DNA replication and cell division of two marine phytoplankters Thalassiosira weissflogii (a diatom) and Hymenomonas carterae (a coccolithophorid) was investigated using flow cytometry. The two species displayed very differing behavior. When transferred from light to prolonged darkness, all coccolithophorid cells were arrested at the beginning of the G1 stage of the cell cycle. When shifted back into light, they resumed cycling at a rate slightly slower than prior to arrest. In contrast, diatom cells were arrested either in the G1 or G2 stage of the cell cycle in the dark. Upon re-exposure to light, cells which had been dark-arrested in G1 resumed cycling at the same rate as prior to arrest, while cells arrested in G2 cycled much more slowly. These results suggest that in both species, light control of cell cycle progression is effective only over a restricted part of the cell cycle, as has been hypothesized by Spudich & Sager (J cell biol 83 (1980) 136)  for Chlamydomonas. In the coccolithophorid there is a single light-dependent segment located at the beginning of G1, whereas the diatom appears to have two such segments, one in G1 and the other in G2, corresponding to two different light requiring processes.