Kevin Middleton

Kevin Middleton, Ph.D.

I am an anatomist / functional morphologist / occasional paleontologist / biomechanist and part of the Integrative Anatomy group in the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences at the University of Missouri School of Medicine.

My research focuses on vertebrate musculoskeletal physiology, form, and function in the contexts of animal locomotion and evolution. In my work, I integrate studies across multiple scales from micro-scale structural materials of bone to macro-scale whole bone morphology to evolutionary changes across vertebrate taxa and with comparisons to extinct organisms.

I am active in the MU Evolutionary Studies group. I’m also the Director of Graduate Admissions for the Department of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences.

From 2007-2012, I was an assistant and then associate professor in the Department of Biology at California State University, San Bernardino. Prior to that I was a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University and the University of California, Riverside.

Way back in history, I was an undergraduate at Wake Forest University and then a doctoral student in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Brown University. Here’s a link to my thesis on WorldCat: Morphology, evolution, and function of the avian hallux. If you are interested in the evolution of avian feet and want a copy, just email me.

Current Graduate Students

Sarah Peacock

Sarah Peacock

  • BS Biological Anthropology and Biology, George Washington University
  • MS Forensic Anthropology, Boston University
  • Effects of light on bone phenotypes
  • Modern human variation
  • Human cranio-facial morphology
  • Forensic anthropology

Amanda Smolinsky

Amanda Smolinsky

  • BS Biology, Roanoke College
  • MPhil Human Evolutionary Study, University of Cambridge
  • Skeletal evolution
  • Locomotor evolution in vertebrates
  • Effects of loading on bone phenotypes
  • Functional morphology

Current Undergraduate Researchers

Rebecca Meyer (2016-present)

Graduate Alumni

Susan Lujan (MS 2012)

  • Thesis: “Variable Levels of Atmospheric Oxygen Do Not Affect Microanatomy and Limb Bone Geometry in Alligator mississippiensis
  • Currently: Lecturer, CSU San Bernardino, Palm Desert Campus

Brittney Coats (MS 2012)

  • Thesis: “Limb bone geometry and skeletal physiology in mice bred for high levels of activity”
  • PhD: University of Chicago (2015)
  • Currently: Assistant professor, St. Louis College of Pharmacy

Lauren English (MS 2012)

  • Thesis: “Allometry of the pterosaur wing skeleton”
  • Currently: Doctoral student, Jackson School of Geosciences at the University of Texas, Austin (Fall 2012)

Katie Johnson (MS 2012)

  • Thesis: “Feather biomechanics of penguins and other seabirds”
  • Currently: Doctoral student, Department of Biology, University of California, Riverside

Undergraduate and Post-bac Alumni

Nick Bira

Nick Ferrari (2016-2017)

Nick Bira (2014-2017)

Nick started in the lab as a summer fellow as part of the Math in Life Science Freshman Interest Group. He continued as a C3 Hughes Research Fellow. As part of his project, Nick helped to develop a video about research in the lab.

Nick is working on a PhD in Engineering at Oregon State University.

Kyle Kirkland

Kyle Kirkland (2015)

Kyle visited the lab from Michigan State University in Summer 2015 as an MU School of Medicine Summer Research Fellow.

Kyle constructed a 3-point bending apparatus for mouse femora (which he is seen here in the process of constructing). In his project, he compared the bending strength of femora from mice with the Myhc4Minimsc-/- mutation with two inbred strains.

Imran Rashid (2015)

Imran completed his Biological Sciences Honors project in the lab on “Testing axial loading in tail and lumbar vertebrae of mice selected for exercise”.

Michael Sojka (2015)

Michael was a strategic communications major in the MU School of Journalism and a C3 Hughes Research Fellow. As part of his project, Michael helped to develop a video about research in the lab.

Tarrin Casey

Tarrin Casey (2014)

Tarrin visited the lab in Summer, 2014 as an MU School of Medicine Summer Research Fellow from Xavier University, New Orleans. She studied the bending properties of feather rachises for her summer research project.

Diana Salas (2013)

Diana visited the lab in Summer, 2013 as an MU School of Medicine Summer Research Fellow from Indiana University. She worked on mineral apposition rates in high-runner mice.

Christian Andrus (2012)

  • Biomechanics of flight feathers in seabirds
  • Western University of Health Sciences College of Dentistry (2012)

Krystina Bradford (2012)

  • Biomechanics of contour feathers in recent and fossil penguins
  • University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (2012)

Darren Brockie (2009)

  • Morphometrics of the mouse femur in “mini-muscle” and outbred mice
  • Loma Linda School of Medicine (2010)
  • Currently a resident in Emergency Medicine

Frank Lee (2009)

  • Staining protocols for articular cartilage
  • Midwestern University School of Pharmacy (2009)

Skyler Liatti (2009)

  • Morphometrics of the mandible in “mini-muscle” mice
  • Loma Linda University School of Dentistry (2010)

Jennifer Swingle (2008)

  • Role of soft tissue in determining joint mobility in birds
  • Western University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine (2008)

Recent Publications

More Publications

Some recent publications:

  • Predicting the bending properties of long bones: insights from an experimental mouse model

    Details PDF

  • Visual sensory signals dominate tactile cues during docked feeding in hummingbirds

    Details PDF

  • Ontogeny of bite force in a validated biomechanical model of the American alligator

    Details PDF Dataset

  • Acute restraint stress alters wheel-running behavior immediately following stress and up to 20 hours later in house mice

    Details PDF

  • Hummingbirds control turning velocity using body orientation and turning radius using asymmetrical wingbeat kinematics

    Details PDF Code Dataset

  • Respiratory turbinates and the evolution of endthermy in mammals and birds

    Details Project

  • Challenges and advances in the study of pterosaur flight

    Details PDF

  • Membrane muscle function in the compliant wings of bats

    Details PDF

  • Wingbeat kinematics and motor control of yaw turns in Anna's hummingbirds (Calypte anna)

    Details PDF

  • Sex differences in cannabinoid receptor-1 (CB1) pharmacology in mice selectively bred for high voluntary wheel-running behavior

    Details PDF

Recent Posts

More Posts




IA put on a strong showing at the annual meeting of the American Association of Anatomists in Chicago (part of Experimental Biology 2017).


Sarah and Amanda recognized at LSW



-oxic Alligator bone

Effects of altered oxygen levels on bone structure in alligators

Bone Structure and Biomechanics

Effects of exercise and artificial selection on skeletal morphology and bone mechanics in house mice

Dinosaur Cranial Function and Evolution

Understanding the evolution of head structure and function

Feather biomechanics

Understanding the structure and function and avian feathers


I am part of a large group of faculty and graduate trainees who teach first year clinically oriented human anatomy in the University of Missouri School of Medicine. I was involved in transitioning our large undergraduate human anatomy course to a “flipped classroom” format.

Integrative Anatomy also offers graduate level courses in Evolutionary Biology and Evolutionary Morphology, which are also popular with students outside of our graduate program.

I have been teaching statistics and data analysis for life sciences periodically for the last few years. I’m a strong believer in demystifying analysis (particularly using R and/or python) and reproducible research. Dr. Elizabeth King (MU Biological Sciences) and I co-developed a graduate course in quantitative analysis. It is freely available online (

Collaborating with Randall Pruim (Calvin College), I developed an R package (abd) to accompany the first edition of The Analysis of Biological Data by Michael Whitlock and Dolph Schluter.

I have several more R packages in development. All are available on GitHub.