Alternative oxidase (AOX) represents a non-energy conserving branch in mitochondrial electron transport while plastoquinol terminal oxidase (PTOX) represents a potential branch in photosynthetic electron transport. Using a metagenomics dataset, we have uncovered numerous and diverse AOX and PTOX genes from the Sargasso Sea. Sequence similarity, synteny and phylogenetic analyses indicate that the large majority of these genes are from prokaryotes. AOX appears to be widely distributed among marine Eubacteria while PTOX is widespread among strains of cyanobacteria closely related to the high-light adapted Prochlorococcus marinus MED4, as well as Synechococcus. The wide distribution of AOX and PTOX in marine prokaryotes may have important implications for productivity in the world's oceans.