Calanus finmarchicus

Calanus finmarchicus and Astaxanthin: Nature`s Guardian of Freshness and Health

Zooca® Calanus® Oil is naturally rich in astaxanthin (1,8 mg per gram), a potent antioxidant, which contributes to its distinct and beautiful red color. Astaxanthin inherently helps protect the oil from oxidation, ensuring its freshness and quality. Astaxanthin serves as a natural preservative within the lipids from zooplankton known as Calanus finmarchicus.

As Calanus finmarchicus gets consumed by various marine species such as salmon and sea trout, the naturally occurring astaxanthin is seamlessly transferred to them providing antioxidant protection. This same pigment manifests as the striking red hue observed in shellfish like lobsters, crabs and prawns.

Astaxanthin is recognized for its potent ability to inhibit the oxidation of fatty acids in oils. In the case of Zooca® Calanus® Oil, the natural astaxanthin derived from Calanus finmarchicus is essential in maintaining the oil's long-lasting quality and stability.

Astaxanthin, a potent carotenoid antioxidant, is responsible for Zooca® Calanus® Oils striking red color and extended shelf life. Derived from the extract of Calanus finmarchicus, astaxanthin boasts numerous health benefits that distinguish it from other omega-3 fatty acid sources.

Renowned for its exceptional ability to neutralize free radicals and diminish oxidative stress in the body, astaxanthin’s antioxidant capacity outshines other carotenoids like beta-carotene and lutein, and even surpasses some vitamins, such as vitamin C and E. By combating oxidative stress, astaxanthin helps shield cells, tissues, and organs from harm, thereby promoting overall health (1).

Astaxanthin’s powerful antioxidant and
anti-inflammatory properties boost
immune function, fortifying the immune
system and decreasing the risk of
infections, illnesses, and chronic diseases.

The high concentration of naturally occurring astaxanthin present in Zooca® Calanus® Oil may provide a wide range of health benefits. The antioxidant properties enable it to effectively counter oxidative stress and inflammation. Incorporating Zooca® Calanus® Oil into the diet can help harness the power of astaxanthin to support cardiovascular, skin, eye, immune, joint, as well as cognitive health.

Astaxanthin variations in Calanus finmarchicus biology

Calanus finmarchicus is one of few organisms able to synthesize astaxanthin from precursor carotenoids through their algal diet (Rhodes, 2006; Ringelberg, 1980).

Astaxanthin concentration in copepods have been shown to be highly dynamic and they are related to several factors such as development stages, feeding history, season, and locations of harvest.

The life cycle for C. finmarchicus consists of six naupliar stages followed by five copepodite stages (CI-CV) and a final molt into either adult male or female (Mauchline, 1998). Developmental time from egg to CV usually takes between three to eight weeks, largely determined by food concentration and temperature (Campbell et al., 2001; Møller et al., 2012). The older stages, mainly CVs, descends to great depths during summer and enters diapause, a dormant state where energy consumption is minimized during the low productive winters (Hirche, 1996). In some areas, CVs have been found to molt directly into adults during summer and produce a second generation, evident by a second, although smaller, abundance peak (Gislason & Astthorsson, 1996). The shift in astaxanthin concentrations found in the copepods in summer could therefore be partly explained by the occurrence of a second generation that has not yet accumulated astaxanthin, showing that the astaxanthin content will vary greatly depending on the development stage of the copepods. Another explanation could be dietary composition. This is the beauty of nature. It varies continuously.

The commercial harvesting of C. finmarchicus is concentrated to spring and summer when the phytoplankton blooms and the copepods aggregate in large quantities near the surface. Harvesting begins on southern part of the mid-Norwegian shelf and gradually follows the spring flowering to the north. Observations made by the harvesting crews report that in a given field of harvest, the biomass will be relatively homogenous in terms of development stages. If the harvesting vessels remain at a specific locality for a longer period of time, the composition of the copepods will eventually shift from the early stages III-IV to IV-V and, visually the pigmentation of the harvest correlates with the shift of these development stages.   Studies have shown that astaxanthin concentration in Calanus spp. varied temporarily and spatially, with highest values in CVs during spring in the fjords and summer off the coast of Northern Norway.

Astaxanthin molecule. Astaxanthin
acts as
UV protection
for the calanus
in the Arctic
midnight sun
Astaxanthin molecule

Astaxanthin and health benefits

In terms of cardiovascular health, astaxanthin helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels by encouraging a balance between high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. It also enhances blood flow and curbs inflammation in blood vessels, supporting overall heart health (2).

Astaxanthin contributes to skin health by providing antioxidant protection to safeguard the skin from harmful UV radiation and environmental pollutants by neutralizing free radicals and reducing inflammation. It supports skin elasticity, hydration, and appearance by augmenting the skin’s moisture-retention capacity and minimizing fine lines and wrinkles (3).

For eye health, astaxanthin has demonstrated a benefit by lowering the risk of age-related macular degeneration and other eye conditions by defending the retina against oxidative damage. It also helps relieve eye fatigue and sharpen visual acuity (4).

Astaxanthin’s powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties support overall immune function and health and help to decrease the risk of infections, and chronic disease.

Furthermore, it fosters joint health by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress in the joints, potentially easing arthritis symptoms and other joint-related conditions.

Lastly, astaxanthin supports cognitive function and health by shielding neurons from oxidative damage and reducing inflammation in the brain, potentially protecting against age-related cognitive decline (5).


  1. Yunrui Cao, Lu Yang, Xing Qiao, Changhu Xue & Jie Xu (2021): Dietary astaxanthin: an excellent carotenoid with multiple health benefits, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition
  2. Kishimoto, Yoshimi, Hiroshi Yoshida, and Kazuo Kondo. 2016. Potential Anti-Atherosclerotic Properties of Astaxanthin. Marine Drugs 14, no. 2: 35
  3. Singh, KN, Patil, S & Barkate, H.(2020) Protective effects of astaxanthin on skin: Recent scientific evidence, possible mechanisms, and potential indications. JCosmet Dermatol.; 19: 22– 27
  4. Giannaccare G, Pellegrini M, Senni C, Bernabei F, Scorcia V, Cicero AFG. (2020) Clinical Applications of Astaxanthin in the Treatment of Ocular Diseases: Emerging Insights. Marine Drugs; 18(5):239.
  5. Grimmig, B., Kim, SH., Nash, K. et al. (2017) Neuroprotective mechanisms of astaxanthin: a potential therapeutic role in preserving cognitive function in age and neurodegeneration. GeroScience 39, 19–32
The Norwegian-based company Zooca® has created a revolutionary
bio marine value chain focused on the sustainable harvesting of Calanus finmarchicus, the largest renewable animal resource in the Norwegian Sea.

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