John O. Reiss

Professor - Zoology

John Reiss
(707) 826-4156
SciA 454A

Born and raised in Southern California, John completed his BA in Biology and Environmental Studies at UC Santa Cruz, then moved east to do his MA and PhD at the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard University. After postdoctoral studies at the University of Arizona, Tucson, he came to HSU in Fall 1997.


BA (1984) University of California, Santa Cruz
MA (1986) Harvard University
PhD (1993) Harvard University

Courses Taught

Human Anatomy
Comparative Anatomy of the Vertebrates
Introductory Zoology
Principles of Animal Development
History of Biology
California Natural History
Electron Microscopy


My research focuses on the evolution, ecology and developmental morphology of amphibians. I am particularly interested in the origins and diversification of the metamorphic patterns seen in living amphibians. Past work examined metamorphosis of the skull, but currently I am examining metamorphic changes in the olfactory system, at the gross morphological, histological, and molecular levels. My graduate students have worked on a wide variety of topics relating to amphibians, including morphology, population studies, environmental control of neoteny, and chytrid fungal disease.  I am also interested in the history, philosophy, and theory of biology, especially evolutionary biology.


  • Quinzio, S.I., and J.O. Reiss. (2017) The ontogeny of the olfactory system in ceratophryid frogs (Anura, Ceratophryidae). Journal of Morphology 279: 37-49.
  • Jungblut, L.D., Reiss, J.O., Paz, D.A., and Pozzi, A.G. (2017) Quantitative comparative analysis of the nasal chemosensory organs of anurans during larval development and metamorphosis highlights the relative importance of chemosensory subsystems in the group. Journal of Morphology. 278: 1208-1219.
  • Reiss, J. O.  (2013) Does selection intensity increase when populations decrease? Absolute fitness, relative fitness, and the opportunity for selection. Evolutionary Ecology 27: 477-488.
  • Benzekri, N.A. and J.O. Reiss.  (2012) Olfactory Metamorphosis in the Coastal Tailed Frog Ascaphus truei (Amphibia, Anura, Leiopelmatidae).  Journal of Morphology 273: 68-87.
  • Reiss, J. O. (2009) Not by Design: Retiring Darwin's Watchmaker.  Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Reiss, J.O., Burke, A.C., Archer, C., De Renzi, M., Dopazo, H., Etxeberría, A., Gale, E.A., Hinchliffe, J.R., de la Rosa Garcia, L.N., Rose, C.S., Rasskin-Gutman, D., and Müller, G.B.  (2008) Pere Alberch: Originator of EvoDevo.  Biological Theory 3: 351-356.
  • Reiss, J. O. and H. L. Eisthen. (2008) Chemical senses: Comparative anatomy and physiology in amphibians. In H. Thewissen and S. Nummela, eds., Sensory Evolution on the Threshold: Adaptations in Secondarily Aquatic Vertebrates. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Reiss, J.O. (2007) Relative fitness, teleology, and the adaptive landscape. Evolutionary Biology 34: 4-27.
  • Nieto, N. C., M. A. Camann,  J. E. Foley, and J. O. Reiss.  (2007) Disease associated with integumentary and cloacal parasites in tadpoles of Northern Red-legged Frog, Rana aurora.  Diseases of Aquatic Organisms 78: 61-71.
  • Stuelpnagel, J. T. and J. O. Reiss. (2005) Olfactory metamorphosis in the Coastal Giant Salamander (Dicamptodon tenebrosus). Journal of Morphology 266:22-45.

Graduate Students

Current: Adrian Macedo, Kyle Orr, Jaclyn Patmore, Ethan Snee


  • Christian Brow - Habitat use and movement patterns of two redwood forest salamanders, Aneides vagrans and Ensatina eschscholtzii, with an examination of the efficacy of PIT tags for marking small plethodontids
  • Adam Cummings - Evolution of an aquatic courtship pheromone in the genus Taricha
  • Jennifer Tucker - Effectiveness of cutaneous antifungal microbe bioaugmentation for disease prevention in the Cascades Frog, Rana cascadae, of northern California
  • Timothy Girod - Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus) diet composition, life history, and time period for larval development in California's north coast
  • Shannon Morago - A mechanism to increase chemosensory perception in humans?
  • Michael Sun - Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis prevalence in Northern Red-legged Frogs (Rana aurora) - 10 years later
  • Noelle Benzekri - Olfactory structure and metamorphosis in the Coastal Tailed Frog, Ascaphus truei
  • Larkin Chases - Olfactory response to food in larval Coastal Giant Salamanders, Dicamptodon tenebrosus
  • Stein Coriell - Environmental factors affecting paedomorphosis in the Coastal Giant Salamander
  • Jason Lowe - Population structure of two sympatric salamanders, Plethodon elongatus and Ensatina eschscholtzii
  • Nathan Nieto - Chytridiomycosis in larval Red-legged Frogs in and near Redwood National Park
  • Carrie Sendak - Movement Patterns and Habitat Use of the Northern Red-legged Frog, Rana aurora
  • Jeremy Stuelpnagel - Olfactory metamorphosis in the Coastal Giant Salamander, Dicamptodon tenebrosus