Diatoms are important protists that generate one fifth of the oxygen produced annually on earth. These aquatic organisms likely derived from a secondary endosymbiosis event, and they display peculiar genomic and structural features that reflect their chimeric origin. Diatoms were one of the first models of cell division and these early studies revealed a range of interesting features including a unique acentriolar microtubule-organising centre. Unfortunately, almost nothing is known at the molecular level, in contrast to the advances in other experimental organisms. Recently the full genome sequences of two diatoms have been annotated and molecular tools have been developed. These resources offer new possibilities to re-investigate the mechanisms of cell division in diatoms by recruiting information from more intensively studied organisms. A renaissance of the topic is further justified by the current interest in diatoms as a source of biofuels and for understanding massive diatom proliferation events in response to environmental stimuli.