Many organisms living in the ocean create tests, shells, or related physical structures of calcium carbonate (CaCO3). As this is most often from dissolved inorganic carbon, using organisms that create calcium carbonate structures for climate research and dating purposes requires knowledge of the origin of carbon that is incorporated. Here, we give a short overview of research on marine carbonates over the last 60 years, especially that based on shell and coral samples. Both shells and corals exhibit annual growth patterns, like trees, and therefore offer possibilities for yearly resolution of past radiocarbon (14C) variations. We concentrate on their evolution in 14C dating including difficulties in determining reservoir ages as well as the possibilities they offer for archaeological dating, oceanography, calibration purposes as well as environmental research in general.