Tissues of many marine invertebrates of class Anthozoa contain intensely fluorescent or brightly colored pigments. These pigments belong to a family of photoactive proteins closely related to Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), and their emissions range from blue to red wavelengths. The great diversity of these pigments has only recently been realized. To investigate the role of these proteins in corals, we have performed an in vivo fluorescent pigment (FP) spectral and cellular distribution analyses in live coral cells using single and multi-photon laser scanning imaging and microspectroscopy. These analyses revealed that even single color corals contain spectroscopically heterogeneous pigment mixtures, with 2-5 major color types in the same area of tissue. They were typically arranged in step-wise light emission energy gradients (e.g. blue, green, yellow, red). The successive overlapping emission-excitation spectral profiles of differently colored FPs suggested that they were suited for sequential energy coupling. Traces of red FPs (emission = 570-660 nm) were present, even in non-red corals. We confirmed that radiative energy transfer could occur between separate granules of blue and green FPs and that energy transfer was inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Multi-photon micro-spectrofluorometric analysis gave significantly improved spectral resolution by restricting FP excitation to a single point in the focal plane of the sample. Pigment heterogeneity at small scales within granules suggested that fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) might be occurring, and we confirmed that this was the case. Thus, energy transfer can take place both radiatively and by FRET, probably functioning in photoprotection by dissipation of excessive solar radiation.