Julia Molnar investigates the evolution of vertebrate locomotion. She uses three-dimensional virtual models of fossil and living animals to study how muscle leverage, joint range of motion, and other biomechanical factors change over evolutionary transitions and across different environments. Her main interest is in non-mammalian vertebrates such as lobe-finned fish, early tetrapods, salamanders, lizards, and crocodylians.

Molnar received her Ph.D. in evolutionary biomechanics from the Royal Veterinary College, University of London in 2013; her M.A. in medical and biological illustration from Johns Hopkins University in 2009; and her B.F.A. in fine arts from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2003.

Recent Projects/Research

  • Evolution of arboreal locomotion in chameleons
  • Reconstructing appendicular muscle anatomy across the tetrapod water-land transition
  • Comparative anatomy and function in lobe finned fish
  • Evolution of hindlimb musculature in early crocodylomorphs

Selected Publications

  • Molnar, JL, Diogo, R, Hutchinson, JR, Pierce, SE (2018). Evolution of hindlimb muscle anatomy across the tetrapod water-to-land transition. The Anatomical Record, DOI: 10.1002/ar.23997.
  • Molnar, JL, Diogo, R, Hutchinson, JR, Pierce, SE (2017). Reconstructing pectoral appendicular muscle anatomy in fossil fish and tetrapods over the fins-to-limbs transition. Biological Reviews doi: 10.1111/brv.12386.
  • Molnar, JL, Esteve-Altava, B., Rolian, C., and Diogo, R. (2017). Comparison of musculoskeletal networks of the primate forelimb. Nature Scientific Reports 7:10520. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-09566-7
  • Molnar, JL, Diaz, R, and Diogo, R (2017). Comparative musculoskeletal anatomy of chameleon limbs and implications for limb development and the evolution of arboreal locomotion in lizards. Journal of Morphology.
  • Molnar, JL, Johnston, PS, Esteve-Altava, B, Diogo, R (2016). Musculoskeletal anatomy of the pelvic fin of Polypterus: Implications for phylogenetic distribution and homology of pre- and post-axial pelvic appendicular muscles. Journal of Anatomy doi:10.1111/joa.12573.
  • Diogo, R*, Johnston, PS*, Molnar, JL*, and Esteve-Altava, B (2016). Characteristic tetrapod musculoskeletal limb phenotype emerged more than 400 MYA in basal lobe-finned fishes. Nature Scientific Reports 6, 37592; doi: 10.1038/srep37592 [*co-first authors]
  • Molnar, JL, Pierce, SE, Bhullar, B-A, Turner, AH, Hutchinson, JR (2015). Morphological and functional changes in the crocodylomorph vertebral column with increasing aquatic adaptation. Royal Society Open Science 2: 150439.

Honors and Awards

  • American Association of Anatomists Post-doctoral Fellowship, 2015
  • Jackson School of Geosciences Student Travel Grant, 2011
  • Lazendorf Prize for Scientific Illustration, Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 2009

Courses Taught

  • LBD 507: Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine
  • MSME 758: Anatomy and Physiology for the Simulationist

Contact Info