The broadest diversification of early predatory dinosaurs is represented by the ‘coelophysoid-grade’ neotheropods, but their Hettangian–Sinemurian (c. 191–201 Ma) record is scarce worldwide. More information is needed to shed light on the evolution of this dinosaur group after the end-Triassic mass extinction (c. 201 Ma). Here we revisit the anatomy and phylogeny of one of these earliest Jurassic neotheropod specimens, an isolated partial tibia from the lower Sinemurian of the Isle of Skye (Scotland) that was previously identified as probably closely related to Liliensternus liliensterni and coelophysids. However, we found that the Skye specimen is positioned in the branch leading to Averostra (Ceratosauria + Tetanurae), in a polytomy with Sarcosaurus woodi from the late Hettangian–lower Sinemurian of central England and a clade composed of Tachiraptor admirabilis and Averostra. The morphology of the Skye specimen is congruent with that of referred specimens of Sarcosaurus woodi, but because it probably represents a skeletally immature specimen, we assign it to cf. Sarcosaurus woodi. The Skye specimen increases the number of averostran-line neotheropod specimens recorded in the Lower Jurassic of Europe and current evidence indicates that these forms, and not coelophysoids, were relatively common in this part of the world at that time.
Supplementary material: Character list and dataset for phylogenetic analysis and 3D model of the tibia are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.6863016
Thematic collection: This article is part of the Palaeontology of Scotland collection available at: https://www.lyellcollection.org/topic/collections/palaeontology-of-scotland