Aim The bioclimatic model is a new method for palaeoclimatic reconstruction built on the assumption of a significant correlation between climate and mammal community composition. The goal of this approach is to infer past climatic conditions using mammal fossil associations as source data.
Location The study used mammal faunas from all over the world to develop the bioclimatic model. As an example of the potential of the model, we have applied it to Quaternary faunas from Eurasia.
Methods The proposed model was constructed by applying multivariate discriminant analysis to modern mammal faunas and climates from throughout the world. The model was validated with a different set of modern faunas than those used in the discriminant analysis, including some from transitional zones between different climates (ecotones). To test the reliability of the method in the Pleistocene, the results have been compared to those obtained with data from other disciplines, such as palaeobotany.
Results The results obtained in the validation of the model show that more than 90% of the localities have been classified correctly. Comparisons of results in the late Pleistocene-Holocene of Barová between a palaeobotanical study and the bioclimatic analysis show the latter to be highly accurate. The results for early Pleistocene faunas show somewhat drier and more open climatic conditions for Europe than the present day, with larger areas of steppe environments.
Main Conclusions The bioclimatic model could be used to infer climatic conditions from mammal faunas. The results presented in this work provide a preliminary example of the potential that bioclimatic analysis has as a tool for palaeoclimatic inference. Finally, this method offers the opportunity to standardize data coming from vertebrate palaeontology for use in the construction and evaluation of climatic models.