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Redescription of Neovenator salerii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) and its implications for theropod evolution and phylogeny
 
SVPCA Conference
 
Platform presentation (20 minutes)
Authors
 
*Roger B J Benson
,
 
Stephen L Brusatte
 
 
Stephen Hutt
 
Abstract
 

Neovenator salerii (Dinosauria: Theropoda) is the most complete large theropod known from Europe but has only briefly been described in the literature (Hutt et al., 1996; Naish et al., 2001). Here we present a redescription of the holotype and referred specimens from the Early Cretaceous Wessex Formation (Wealden Group) of the Isle of Wight, which together comprise approximately 70% of the skeleton. Neovenator is shown to possess numerous autapomorphies, including an enlarged maxillary fenestra, a peg-and-socket accessory articulation between the premaxilla and maxilla, and curved flanges emerging from the zygapophyses of posterior dorsal vertebrae. Neovenator clearly belongs to Allosauroidea, a clade of basal tetanuran theropods that includes Allosaurus, Sinraptor, and the Carcharodontosauridae, a subgroup that contains some of the largest known theropods.

Phylogenetic analysis finds Neovenator as the basal-most member of Carcharodontosauridae, a position supported by numerous synapomorphies, including camellate cervical vertebrae, details of the pleurocoels in cervical and dorsal vertebrae, a hypertrophied pubic boot, an anteriorly-expanded ischial boot, a dorsally-inclined femoral head, and a hypertrophied medial malleolus of the tibia. This placement suggests that basal carcharodontosaurids were components of European faunas before becoming restricted to Gondwana later in their evolution. Additionally, character acquisition patterns indicate that large body size and the highly apomorphic skull of derived carcharodontosaurids evolved after changes to the axial and appendicular skeleton. These changes include an increase in axial pneumaticity and alterations in limb articulation, which clearly were not a direct response to the large body size of derived carcharodontosaurids as demonstrated by their presence in the much smaller Neovenator.

London 2020