Many regions of the open, oligotrophic oceans are depleted of nutrients, especially nitrogen and iron. The biogenesis and the functioning of the photosynthetic apparatus may be specialized and tailored to the various marine habitats. In this minireview, we discuss some new findings with respect to photosynthetic processes in the oceans. We focus on findings that suggest that some cyanobacteria may route electrons derived from the splitting of H2O to the reduction of O2 and H+ in a water-to-water cycle, and that other cyanobacteria that fix nitrogen during the day are likely missing PSII and enzymes involved in the fixation of inorganic carbon. Both of these proposed “variant” forms of photosynthetic electron flow provide new insights into ways in which marine phytoplankton satisfy their energetic and nutritive requirements.