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Phil Cox
Senior Lecturer in Anatomy



Phil Cox studied comparative mammalian functional morphology for his PhD in the Museum of Zoology, University of Cambridge. After successfully receiving his doctorate, he moved to the University of Liverpool to undertake a postdoctoral research project on the vestibulo-ocular reflex in mammals with Dr Nathan Jeffery. He remained in Liverpool to conduct a second postdoc, this time on the biomechanics of rodent skulls. In 2012, Phil joined the Centre for Anatomical and Human Sciences in HYMS and Archaeology as a Lecturer, becoming Senior Lecturer in 2018.

University roles

Appeals Chair for the Special Cases Committee



Phil's research is principally concerned with the mammalian skull and how it has been shaped by both evolution and function. He is particularly interested in how the forces generated by feeding can influence cranial morphology. He investigates these issues using a number of techniques such as geometric morphometrics and finite element analysis. He is fascinated by all mammals, and much of his work has taken the form of large studies comparing the different eutherian orders. However, his current research is particularly focused on the rodents, as they display unique and highly specialised adaptations of the teeth and masticatory muscles. Phil is also interested in the use of medical imaging in comparative anatomy, and was involved in the development of contrast-enhanced microCT, a technique for visualising soft tissues via microCT scanning.


  • Morphological and functional variation in British red and grey squirrels
  • The evolution of island gigantism
  • Contrast-enhanced microCT and virtual reconstruction of rodent masticatory musculature

PhD students

  • Ewan Chipping - The functional morphology of British aurochs
  • Alice Maher - Body elongation in vertebrates
  • Julia May - Functional morphology of the multituberculates
  • Kim Chandler - Ecomorphology and evolution of British red squirrels
  • Amber Wood-Bailey - Evolution of unique cranial morphology and function in lagomorphs

Currently available PhD projects

Functional morphology of giant fossil dormice (self-funded position).

This project will explore the biomechanics of feeding in a wide range of extant dormice and some of their giant fossil relatives, using a range of techniques such as virtual reconstruction and finite element analysis. Please contact me for further details.


Jeffery N, Cox PG, Rayfield EJ, Fagan MJ, 2009-2012, ‘Diversity of the masticatory apparatus among extant rodents: 3D analysis and modelling of form and function’, NERC, £441,000 (researcher-co-investigator)

Cox PG, Pataky TC, 2014-2016, ‘Hypothesis testing of bone loading via probabilistic finite element simulation’, Royal Society International Exchanges Scheme, £11,850

Gálvez López E, Cox PG, 2019-2022, 'MINKS. Conserving our wildlife heritage: comparative biomechanics of feeding in native and introduced minks', Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, £280,500 (PI)

Cox PG, Watson PJ, 2020-2022, 'Functional morphology and the biomechanics of feeding in squirrels', Academies Partnership in Supporting Excellence in Cross-disciplinary research award (APEX), £65,000 (+ £4,500 for public engagement)



Medical Curriculum

  • Anatomy lectures and resource sessions
  • Lead for Scholarship and Special Interest Programme in Anatomy


MSc in Human Anatomy & Evolution

  • Module lead for Primate Ecology and Evolution
  • Co-ordinator for research projects

External activities


Fellow of the Linnean Society

Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

The Anatomical Society

The Palaeontological Association

Editorial duties

Co-Editor-in-Chief of Journal of Anatomy

Invited talks and conferences

2016, Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay, 'Using finite element analysis to study the evolution of mammals'

2016, International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology, Washington DC, USA, 'Masticatory muscle anatomy of African mole-rats revealed by diceCT'

2017, Cambridge Science Festival, UK, 'The skull: a multitude of forms'

2017, Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, 'Rodent masticatory biomechanics: extreme adaptations of the mammalian feeding system'

2018, Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology, Division of Vertebrate Morphology regional meeting, London, UK, 'Morphological convergence in the Euarchontoglires'

2019, Mammal Society Spring Meeting, Glasgow, UK, 'Potential dietary influences on mandibular morphology in red squirrels'

2019, International Congress of Vertebrate Morphology, Prague, Czech Republic, 'Using FEA to assess the impact of gape on cranial biomechanics'

Media coverage

Media interest in Morris et al (2018) Convergent evolution in the Euarchontoglires. Biology Letters

Media interest in Cox et al (2015) Predicting bite force and cranial biomechanics in the largest fossil rodent using finite element analysis. Journal of Anatomy

Media interest in Cox et al (2012) Functional evolution of the feeding system in rodents. PLoS ONE

Contact details

Dr Philip Cox
Senior Lecturer in Anatomy
University of York
Wentworth Way
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 1904 321744