FRANK FOX / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY FRANK FOX / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Light microscope footage of a rotifer (centre) feeding on the freshwater algae Haematococcus pluvialis. This single-celled algae is known for producing the orange pigment astaxanthin when the cells are stressed, as here. Astaxanthin is an antioxidant and is thought to act as a sunscreen for the cells. The chemical is extracted and widely used in animal feeds, human dietary supplements and some cosmetics. In animal feeds it is used to add an orange or pink colour, for instance to farmed salmon or egg yolks. It has coloured the digestive tract of the rotifer orange here. H. pluvialis cells average around 20 micrometres in diameter, and are the richest natural source of astaxanthin. Despite this, the chemical can still be produced more cheaply from petroleum products.
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