Name Meaning: New Hunter
Location Discovered: Isle of Wight, England
Estimated Range: England (possibly continental Europe as well, though no remains have been found there)
Size: 7.5 meters long (holotype specimen), fragmented remains suggest size up to 10 meters long
Geologic Era: Early Cretaceous (125 million years ago)
Extinction Date: Early Cretaceous
Neovenator was formally described in 1996, though its remains have been known since 1978. Around 70% of the holotype specimen has been recovered, including skull material. While on the large side for a European theropod, Neovenator had a more slender build than would be expected for an animal of its size. This probably means that Neovenator was a faster moving predator, more than capable of catching its prey items. Animals on the prey list would have included animals such as Iguanodon, Hypsilophodon, and possibly sauropods.
Being a more lightly built predator, Neovenator would probably have favored ornithopods such as Iguanodon or Hypsilophodon. Neovenator did share its environment with several other sizable predators, including Baryonyx, Eotyrannus, and possibly dromaeosaurs. Of those, Eotyrannus was the one most likely to be competing with Neovenator for prey. Baryonyx appears to have preferentially fed upon fish, while a single dromaeosaur would be unlikely to take on even a half grown Neovenator.
Neovenator appears to be most closely related to carcharodontosaurid dinosaurs, sharing many of the skull and build characteristics of that group. There are also similarities to allosaurs, though allosaurs are also closely related to carcharodontosaurs. When Neovenator was first discovered, it was almost considered to be a new species of Megalosaurus. Megalosaurus has an unfortunate tendency to be used as a wastebasket taxon for any large, European theropod. The irony of this fact is that Megalosaurus itself is known only from very fragmented remains, with no complete skeleton recovered to date. Megalosaurus may be the first dinosaur described scientifically, but over a century later it is still very poorly understood.
An interesting feature of the holotype specimen is the number of pathologies it displays. These pathologies include evidence of broken vertebrae, broken scapula, broken gastralia (belly ribs), and bone spurs. All of the injuries show evidence of healing. It is not yet known if this number of pathologies is indicative of normal Neovenator lifestyle, or if this was just a very banged up individual, and a rather young one at that. Given its not-so-distant relationship to Allosaurus (specimens of which often display pathologies), it is possible that Neovenator lived a rather harsh lifestyle compared to other theropods. Only time and more specimens recovered will tell.
“Megalosaurus, World Museum Liverpool (2)” by Rept0n1x – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Megalosaurus,_World_Museum_Liverpool_(2).JPG#/media/File:Megalosaurus,_World_Museum_Liverpool_(2).JPG
Size Comparison: “Neovenator SIZE” by Conty – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neovenator_SIZE.png#/media/File:Neovenator_SIZE.png
Life Restoration: “Neovenator NT” by Nobu Tamura (http://spinops.blogspot.com) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Neovenator_NT.jpg#/media/File:Neovenator_NT.jpg