John P. Wourms

Professor Emeritus

Contact Information

Phone: 864 656-3598
FAX: 864 656-0435


  • Post-doctoral Fellow, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
  • Ph.D. Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA
  • M.S. Biology, Fordham University, New York, NY
  • B. S. Biology, Fordham University, New York, NYPh.D. Zoology (minor Biochemistry), Duke University, 1975

Research Interests

  • Dr. Wourms' research focuses on three areas of inquiry: 1) morphogenetic movements during early fish development; 2) maternal embryonic metabolic exchange in viviparous fishes; and 3) evolution of development. His studies of the morphogenetic movement of cells during the early development of sharks, skates, lungfish, and annual fishes focus on the mechanisms that cause cells to move along particular paths, interact, and assemble into the embryo. Sharks, rays, the coelacanth and modern bony fishes are used to investigate cellular mechanisms of maternal embryonic exchange and the structural adaptations that facilitateit, such as the yolk sac placenta, follicular placenta, the trophotaenial placenta and the pericardial amnion-chorion. In addition, comparative studies of reproductive strategies, early development through embryogenesis, and developmental adaptations for viviparity are used to explore the evolution of the vertebrate pattern of embryological development. Electron microscopy, high resolution enhanced video microscopy, image analysis, in vitro cell physiology, and in vivo confocal fluorescence enzyme cytochemistry are some of the research methods used in his laboratory.

Selected Publications

  • Wourms, J.P. 1997. The rise of fish embryology in the nineteenth century. American Zoologist. 37: 269-310.
  • Hollenberg, F. and J.P. Wourms. 1995. Embryonic growth and maternal nutrient souces in goodeid fishes (Teleostei: Cyprinodontiformes). J. Exp. Zool 271:379-394.
  • Hollenberg, F. and J.P. Wourms. 1994. Ultrastructure and protein uptake of the embryonic trophotaeniae of four species of goodeid fishes. J.Morphol. 219:105-129.
  • Wourms, J.P. 1993. Maximization of evolutionary trends for placental viviparity in the spadenose shark, S. laticaudus. Environ. Biol. Fishes. 38:269-294.
  • Castro, J.I. and J.P. Wourms. 1993. Reproduction, placentation, and embryonic development of the Atlantic Sharpnose Shark, Rhizoprionodon terraenovae. J. Morphol. 218:257-280.
  • Wourms, J.P. and L. Demski (eds.). 1993. Reproduction and Development of Sharks, Rays and Ratfishes. Environ. Biol. Fishes 38:1-294.
  • Wourms, J.P. and Lombardi, J. 1992. Reflections on the evolution of piscine viviparity. Amer. Zool. 32:276-293. 
  • Grove, B.D. and J.P. Wourms. 1991 and 1994. The follicular placenta of the viviparous fish Heterandria formosa. I. Ultrastructure and development of the embryonic absorptive surface. II. Ultrastructure and development of the follicular epithelium. J. Morphol. 209: 265-284; 220:167-184.
  • Wourms, J.P., Atz, J.W. and Stribling, M.D. 1991. Viviparity and the maternal-embryonic relationship in the coelacanth, Latimeria chalumnae. Environ. Biology Fishes. 32:225-248.
  • Carter, C.A. and J.P. Wourms. 1990-93. Annual fish development. I Ultrastructure of Dispersed cells, II Cell Behavior, III Diblastodermic eggs. J. Morphol 204:209-225; 210:247-266; 215:301-312. 
  • Wourms, J. P., B. D. Grove, and J. Lombardi. 1988. The maternal-embryonic relationship in viviparous fishes. In Vol. 11B of Fish Physiology, ed. W. S. Hoar and D. J. Randall, pp. 1-134. San Diego: Academic Press.

Previous Courses Taught

  • BIOSC 440, H440, 640 Developmental Animal Biology
  • ZOOL 835 Interpretive Electron Microscopy
  • BIOSC 871 Selected TopicsBIOSC 490 - Selected Topics in Biological Sciences :Clinical Applications and Medical Practice

Professional Society Affiliations

  • Society for Intergative and Comparative Biology (Secretary: Division of Cell and Developmental Biology. 1983-1986; Chair 1996-1999);
  • American Society of Cell Biologists;
  • American Society of Ichthyologists And Herpetologists;
  • American Elasmobranch Society;
  • International Society of Developmental Biologists;
  • Society of Developmental Biologists;
  • Marine Biological Society of the U.K.;
  • Sigma Xi;
  • Explorer's Club (Fellow).