Otoliths are biocalcified bodies connected to the sensory system in the inner ears of fish. Their layered, biorhythm-following formation provides individual records of the age, the individual history and the natural environment of extinct and living fish species. Such data are critical for ecosystem and fisheries monitoring. They however often lack validation and the poor understanding of biomineralization mechanisms has led to striking examples of misinterpretations and subsequent erroneous conclusions in fish ecology and fisheries management. Here we develop and validate a numerical model of otolith biomineralization. Based on a general bioenergetic theory, it disentangles the complex interplay between metabolic and temperature effects on biomineralization. This model resolves controversial issues and explains poorly understood observations of otolith formation. It represents a unique simulation tool to improve otolith interpretation and applications, and, beyond, to address the effects of both climate change and ocean acidification on other biomineralizing organisms such as corals and bivalves. © 2011 Fablet et al.