The pigment composition of two species of green-colored BChl c-containing green sulfur bacteria (Chlorobium limicola and C. chlorovibrioides) and two species of brown-colored BChl e-containing ones (C. phaeobacteroides and C. phaeovibrioides) incubated at different light intensities have been studied. All species responded to the reduction of light intensity from 50 to 1 μEinstein(E) m(-2) s(-1) by an increase in the specific content of light harvesting pigments, bacteriochlorophylls and carotenoids. At critical light intensities (0.5 to 0.1 μE m(-2) s(-1)) only brown-colored chlorobia were able to grow, though at low specific rates (0.002 days(-1) mg prot(-1)). High variations in the relative content of farnesyl-bacteriochlorophyll homologues were found, in particular BChl e 1 and BChl e 4, which were tentatively identified as [M, E] and [I, E] BChlF e, respectively. The former was almost completely lost upon reduction of light intensity from 50 to 0.1 μE m(-2) s(-1), whereas the latter increased from 7.2 to 38.4% and from 13.6 to 42.0% in C. phaeobacteroides and C. phaeovibrioides, respectively. This increase in the content of highly alkylated pigment molecules inside the chlorosomes of brown species is interpreted as a physiological mechanism to improve the efficiency of energy transfer towards the reaction center. This study provides some clues for understanding the physiological basis of the adaptation of brown species to extremely low light intensities.