Phil Cox
Lecturer in Physiology



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 in Physiology.



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.

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  • Biomechanics of the masticatory muscles in rodents
  • Hypothesis testing of bone loading via probabilistic finite element simulation
  • Contrast-enhanced microCT and virtual reconstruction of rodent masticatory musculature

PhD students

  • Ewan Chipping - The functional morphology of British aurochs
  • Sophie Macaulay - The evolution of locomotion in Archosauria
  • Jesse Hennekam - Insular gigantism in fossil dormice
  • Alice Maher - Body elongation in vertebrates

Currently available PhD projects

Functional morphology, ecological diversity, and extinction of the multituberculates

HYMS-funded Graduate Teaching Assistant position - the successful candidate will be expected to contribute teaching support to the medical curriculum (anatomy and physiology labs) and to the MSc in Human Anatomy and Evolution.

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



Medical Curriculum

  • Lead for physiology biopractical classes in York
  • 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

Member of editorial board for MorphoMuseuM

Academic editor for PeerJ

Invited talks and conferences

2014, University of Liverpool, UK, 'Biomechanics of the masticatory system: using rodents as a model order'

2015, University of Texas at Austin, USA, 'Visualising and reconstructing rodent masticatory musculature with contrast-enhanced microCT'

2015, Polish Academy of Sciences, Institute of Paleobiology, Warsaw, Poland, 'Morphological convergence and cranial biomechanics of diprotodont mammals'

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

Media coverage

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

Phil Cox

Contact details

Dr Philip Cox
Hull York Medical School
University of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 1904 321744