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William E. Bemis

Professor; Faculty Curator of Ichthyology, Cornell University Museum of Vertebrates

William E. Bemis

Dale R Corson Bio Science Wing, Room E225
Liddell Laboratory

Educational Background

Ph.D., Zoology, University of California-Berkeley (1983)

M.S., Zoology, University of Michigan (1978)

B.A., Biology, Cornell University (1976) 



I am a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Cornell University. I received my B.A. in Biology from Cornell University (1976), M.S. in Zoology from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor (1978), Ph.D. in Zoology from the University of California Berkeley (1983) and spent two years as an instructor and postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Organismal Biology at the University of Chicago. I served 20 years as Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where I taught comparative anatomy, embryology, ichthyology and trained doctoral students in vertebrate biology. I have traveled extensively for research and worked with specimens in more than 50 natural history collections on six continents. From 2005 to 2013, I served as Kingsbury Director of Shoals Marine Laboratory at Cornell. In 2013, I returned to the faculty of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, where I conducts research in comparative anatomy, train undergraduate and graduate research students, and teach courses in vertebrate biology, anatomy and evolution, including a course on the biology of sharks, specifically: BIOEE 2470 - The Vertebrates: Structure, Function, and Evolution, and BIOEE 1780 - Evolutionary Biology and Diversity. I recently lead development of an edX Massive Open Online Course on the biology of sharks.


Vertebrate anatomy, ichthyology, paleontology, systematics, embryology, osteology


  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Graduate Fields

  • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
  • Zoology and Wildlife Conservation


I study the anatomy, development and evolutionary relationships of fossil and living fishes including sharks, lungfishes, coelacanths, bowfins, sturgeons and paddlefishes.



  • Leigh, K.L., J.P. Sparks and W. E. Bemis (2016) Food preferences of Atlantic Hagfish, Myxine glutinosa, assessed by experimental baiting of traps. Copeia 104.
  • Moyer, J.K. and W.E. Bemis (2016) Shark teeth as edged weapons: Serrated teeth of three species of selachians. Zoology.
  • Moyer, J.K. and W.E. Bemis (2016) Tooth microstructure and replacement in the Gulper Shark, Centrophorus granulosus (Squaliformes: Centrophoridae). Copeia 104.
  • Farina, S.C. and W.E. Bemis (2016) Functional morphology of gill ventilation of the goosefish, Lophius americanus (Lophiiformes: Lophiidae). Zoology DOI: 10.1016/j.zool.2016.01.006
  • Bemis, K.E. and W.E. Bemis (2015) Functional and developmental morphology of tooth replacement in the Atlantic Wolffish, Anarhichas lupus (Teleostei: Zoarcoidei: Anarhichadidae). Fishes and Morphology Today, G. Arratia and D. Johnson, eds. Copeia 103: 886-901.
  • Bemis, W.E., M. Riccio, and J.K. Moyer (2015) Homology of lateral cusplets in the teeth of lamnid sharks (Lamniformes: Lamnidae). Fishes and Morphology Today, G. Arratia and D. Johnson, eds. Copeia 103: 961-972.
  • Moyer, J.K., N.D. Hamilton, R.H. Seeley, M.L. Riccio, and W.E. Bemis (2015) Identification of shark teeth (Elasmobranchii: Lamnidae) from a historic fishing station on Smuttynose Island, Maine, using computed tomography imaging. Northeastern Naturalist 22: 585-597.
  • Moyer, J.K., M. Riccio, and W.E. Bemis (2015) Development and microstructure of tooth histotypes in the Blue Shark, Prionace glauca (Carcharhiniformes: Carcharhinidae) and the Great White Shark, Carcharodon carcharias (Lamniformes: Lamnidae). Journal of Morphology. DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20380
  • Farina, S.C., T.J. Near, and W.E. Bemis (2015) Evolution of the branchiostegal membrane and restricted gill openings in actinopterygian fishes. Journal of Morphology. DOI: 10.1002/jmor.20371
  • McGuire, B. and W.E. Bemis (2015) Behavioral comparisons of male and female pups of Prairie Voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and Meadow Voles (M. pennsylvanicus). Developmental Psychobiology. DOI 10.1002/dev.21287
  • Hilton, E.J., W.E. Bemis and L. Grande (2014) Hiodontidae: Mooneyes. Chapter 9 IN: Warren, M.I., Jr. and B. Burr (eds.) Freshwater Fishes of North America. Johns Hopkins Press. pp. 299-312.
  • McGuire, B., W.E. Bemis, and F. Vermeylen (2014) Parental behaviour of prairie voles (Microtus ochrogaster) and meadow voles (M. pennsylvanicus) in relation to sex of offspring. Behaviour 151:535-553.