Early Pleistocene terrestrial climate conditions in the Mediterranean region, especially between 1.3 and 1.7 Ma, are poorly understood. Here, the amphibian and reptile fossil record from 24 fissures (Cava Pirro) of the Pirro Nord karstic complex (southern Italy) is used to infer quantitative paleoclimatic and paleoenvironmental reconstructions. These numerical data indicate that the mean annual temperature may have been somewhat lower (–1.6 to –3.6 °C compared to modern temperatures) than that of today, and the mean annual precipitation slightly higher (+90 to +240 mm) than modern values. Seasonality was more pronounced, with cooler summers (–0.4 to –2.0 °C) and much colder winters (–1.2 to –6.0 °C). Rainfall distribution patterns during the year show more precipitation during the winter (+14 to +43 mm), with quantities of summer rainfall (–1.7 to +6.6 mm) being similar to modern values. The associated landscape comprised an open dry environment with scattered patches of woodland, locally along water courses or around swamps. This ecological scenario fits with early Pleistocene cold conditions, where the first occurrence of some eastern emigrants suggests a scenario of trans-Adriatic dispersal, as may have also occurred for the earliest European hominins.

This content is PDF only. Please click on the PDF icon to access.
You do not currently have access to this article.