Julia Molnar's research area is 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 between water and land. She mainly studies fossils of early tetrapods (the first land vertebrates) and the ancestors of modern crocodiles and alligators.

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

  • Reconstructing appendicular muscle anatomy and leverage across the tetrapod water-land transition
  • The biomechanics of vertebrae over evolutionary transitions between water and land: examples from early Tetrapoda and Crocodylomorpha
  • Introducing Anatomical Network Analysis to the the anatomical community


  • Molnar, Esteve-Altava, & Diogo (in press). Anatomical network comparison of musculoskeletal structures in the forelimbs of primates. Nature Scientific Reports.
  • Molnar, Diaz, & Diogo (2017). Comparative musculoskeletal anatomy of chameleon limbs and implications for limb development and the evolution of arboreal locomotion in lizards. Journal of Morphology.
  • Diogo, Johnston, Molnar, & Esteve-Altava (2016). Characteristic tetrapod musculoskeletal limb phenotype emerged more than 400 MYA in basal lobe-finned fishes. Nature Scientific Reports 6, 37592
  • Molnar, Johnston, Esteve-Altava, & Diogo (2016). Musculoskeletal anatomy of the pelvic fin of Polypterus: Implications for phylogenetic distribution and homology of pre- and postaxial pelvic appendicular muscles. Journal of Anatomy.
  • Molnar, Pierce, Bhullar, Turner, & Hutchinson (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

Contact Info