Recent field efforts in the Mahajanga Basin of northwestern Madagascar have recovered a diverse Late Cretaceous terrestrial and freshwater vertebrate fauna, including a growing diversity of avialans. Previous work on associated bird skeletons resulted in the description of two named avialans (Rahonavis, Vorona). Other materials, including two synsacra and numerous appendicular elements, represent at least five additional taxa of basal (non-neornithine) birds. Among the materials described herein are two humeri tentatively referred to Rahonavis and numerous elements (e.g., humeri, ulnae, tibiotarsi, tarsometatarsi) assigned to Vorona. A near-complete carpometacarpus exhibits a minor metacarpal that exceeds the major metacarpal in length, documenting an enantiornithine in the fauna. Moreover, two additional, small humeri, an ulna, a femur, and a tarsometatarsus also compare favorably with enantiornithines. Finally, two other isolated humeri and a synsacrum are referable to Ornithurae. The latter specimen is notable in the presence of distinct, transversely oriented lumbosacral canals along the inner surface of the bony neural canal. This reveals for the first time a hard-tissue correlate of an anatomical specialization related to increased sensorimotor integration, one likely related to the unique form of avialan bipedal locomotion. Bird fossils recovered from the Maevarano Formation document one of the most size- and phylogenetically diverse Cretaceous-age Gondwanan avifaunas, including representative (1) basal pygostylian, (2) enantiornithine, (3) nonenantiornithine, ornithothoracine, and (4) ornithurine taxa. This Maastrichtian avifauna is notable in that it demonstrates the co-existence of multiple clades of basal (non-neornithine) birds until at least the end of the Mesozoic.
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Vol. 30 • No. 4