Modern understanding of skeletal microstructure in fossil corals builds on knowledge of structure and biomineralization in modern corals and diagenesis of carbonate skeletons. It is agreed that the skeleton of living stony corals, the Scleractinia, is made of fibrous aragonite, with growth of biocrystals generally according to rules of crystal growth as observed in inorganic aragonite, but here controlled by organic matrix. Fossil scleractinians all apparently fit the same model of biomineralization seen in living corals, although some early taxa (Triassic) lack septal trabeculae, rod-like framework structures typical of all living and most fossil septate corals.
Paleozoic corals, both septate Rugosa and non-septate Tabulata, had a skeleton of calcite, most likely low-magnesium calcite, thus had diagenetic histories differing considerably from the aragonitic Scleractinia. Agreement is lacking as to whether a single structural motif can be defined for the calcitic corals, that is, whether the Rugosa and Tabulata originally had a calcitic skeleton built of fibrous biocrystals, analogous to the scleractinians, or whether some others originally had a non-fibrous, lamellar skeletal microstructure. The disagreement hinges on whether both of these basic configurations are biogenic, or whether the latter is sometimes or always diagenetic in origin. The presence of matrix control over biomineralization in Rugosa and Tabulata is yet to be proven, but will play an important role in models for biocrystallization in these older cnidarians. Details of diagenetic history and modification of structures in these calcitic corals likewise warrant investigation to improve our ability to interpret the Paleozoic corals.