The basalmost alvarezsauroid Haplocheirus sollers is known from a single specimen collected in Upper Jurassic (Oxfordian) beds of the Shishugou Formation in northwestern China. Haplocheirus provides important data about the plesiomorphic morphology of the theropod group Alvarezsauroidea, whose derived members possess numerous skeletal autapomorphies. We present here a detailed description of the cranial anatomy of Haplocheirus. These data are important for understanding cranial evolution in Alvarezsauroidea because other basal members of the clade lack cranial material entirely and because derived parvicursorine alvarezsauroids have cranial features shared exclusively with members of Avialae that have been interpreted as synapomorphies in some analyses. We discuss the implications of this anatomy for cranial evolution within Alvarezsauroidea and at the base of Maniraptora.
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Vol. 2014 • No. 3816