Cathodoluminescence (CL) examination of Recent biogenic carbonates shows that they are often luminescent regardless of their mineralogical composition (calcite v. aragonite), habitat (marine v. fresh water), way of life (sessile v. vagile) or environment (hyper- v. hyposaline water). Thus, the presence of luminescence in biogenic particles is not a reliable indicator of diagenetic alteration as some authors have suggested. In addition, CL can reveal variations in the mineralogy of shell material (e.g. regenerated calcitic v. primary aragonitic) and can highlight growth-related structures. Manganese (Mn2+) is the most likely activator of this luminescence, and its content in the shells of benthic organisms seems to be linked to growth rate, ontogeny, open sea conditions, bathymetry and salinity. In neritic environments the Mn2+ content and the CL of molluscs and foraminifera appear to increase with decreasing salinity. This study indicates that CL may be an important tool for the determination of environmental and ontogenetic parameters in biogenic carbonates in addition to its current use indiagenetic studies.