The role of environmental change in driving faunal population size and distribution remains a central topic in palaeontology, and is critical to our ability to predict future ecological responses to ongoing environmental change. However, the mechanisms that determine the rate and extent of these population processes are still poorly understood.
This project will involve morphological and genetic (ancient DNA) analyses of fossil material to explore the history of a particularly important steppe specialist large mammal species, saiga antelope, during a period of large-scale environmental change – the Late Pleistocene.
Today critically endangered, saiga were formerly distributed across Europe, Asia and into North America. The project will resolve some problematic phylogenetic and taxonomic issues, in order to establish the number of extinct species of saiga, and then examine the timing, speed, and nature of saiga population dynamics within a dynamic environmental framework.