Carotenoids occur universally in photosynthetic organisms but sporadically in nonphotosynthetic bacteria and eukaryotes. The primordial carotenogenic organisms were cyanobacteria and eubacteria that carried out anoxygenic photosynthesis. The phylogeny of carotenogenic organisms is evaluated to describe groups of organisms which could serve as sources of carotenoids. Terrestrial plants, green algae, and red algae acquired stable endosymbionts (probably cyanobacteria) and have a predictable complement of carotenoids compared to prokaryotes, other algae, and higher fungi which have a more diverse array of pigments. Although carotenoids are not synthesized by animals, they are becoming known for their important role in protecting against damage by singlet oxygen and preventing chronic diseases in humans. The growth of aquaculture during the past decade as well as the biological roles of carotenoids in human disease will increase the demand for carotenoids. Microbial synthesis offers a promising method for production of carotenoids.