We report here the first unequivocal record of a pre-Late Pleistocene lizard from the island of Madagascar, based on a nearly complete lower jaw, elements of both the pectoral and pelvic girdles, several vertebrae and ribs, and numerous osteoderms of what is presumed to be a single individual. The specimen, recovered from the Upper Cretaceous (Maastrichtian) Anembalemba Member, Maevarano Formation, Mahajanga Basin, northwestern Madagascar, is identified as a scincoid scincomorph and, more specifically, a new genus and species of ?Cordylidae (Cordyliformes), based on a combination of gnathic, dental, and postcranial characters. The new taxon is the first identifiable lizard from the Late Cretaceous of the African continent (sensu lato).
If the new taxon is correctly attributed to the Cordylidae, it constitutes a significant temporal and geographic range extension for the clade since cordylids have no definite representatives in the fossil record and extant forms are restricted to the sub-Saharan portion of mainland Africa. This new record also indicates that cordylids, after their occurrence in the Maastrichtian, became extinct on Madagascar, leaving only zonosaurine Gerrhosauridae as extant representatives of Cordyliformes on the island. Owing to limited knowledge concerning the time of divergence for cordylids and gerrhosaurids relative to the tectonic separation of Africa and Madagascar, and in light of the paucity of Mesozoic lizard fossils in general, and from Gondwana in particular, the discovery of the new taxon in the Late Cretaceous of Madagascar does little to otherwise constrain scenarios concerning the biogeographic history of early cordyliforms.
Finally, we document here the observation that lizards appear to have been much less speciose than snakes in Late Cretaceous faunas of Gondwana, whereas the reverse is true in Laurasia. Lizards do not appear to become common in Gondwana until the Early Tertiary.