Paleontology is the study of the history of life, looking at how organisms evolved and what their lives were like in the past.
We can use various techniques to understand how the cold-water corals that we see today came to live where they are, and what the oceans surrounding them were like in the past. However, the only way we have of learning about the history of corals is by looking at their old preserved skeletons or fossils.
The element of luck is very important in the study of the history of corals, as finding well-preserved fossil locations is very hard. Plus, even when a key fossil is found, it is not that easy to identify the animal itself from only a fossil of its skeleton. So, paleontology is a challenging area of research for cold-water corals.
Thanks to Melanie Douarin at the University of Nantes for the information for this section.