Zooxanthellae living in colonies of the Caribbean reef coral Montastrea annularis photoadapt to depth-dependent attenuation of submarine light. Studies carried out at Discovery Bay, Jamaica, show that in shallow-living coral colonies, the zooxanthellae appear photoadapted to function at high light intensities, and do poorly if transplanted to low light intensities; in contrast, zooxanthellae in deeper-living coral colonies can be damaged by high light intensities. The adaptation to decreasing light intensity and changing spectral quality appears to be accomplished by increasing the size of the photosynthetic unit (PSU), as opposed to increasing the number of PSU's per cell. Whole cell absorption increases with depth, partially offsetting the loss of light energy due to depth-dependent attenuation. Calculations of photosynthetically usable radiation, the light an alga is capable of absorbing in its own submarine habitat, suggest that the algae at different depths are optimizing rather than maximizing their ability to harvest submarine light energy.