Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Separate name for fungus's sexual stage may cause confusion

Sir

I applaud the discovery by C. M. O'Gorman and colleagues of a sexual stage in the medically important fungus Aspergillus fumigatus (Nature 457, 471–474; 2009). However, I question the introduction of a new scientific name for it, Neosartorya fumigata.

Mycologists know from morphological and now molecular phylogenetic evidence that the asexual A. fumigatus belongs with species that also produce a Neosartorya sexual stage. In the molecular era, the need for a single species to have separate scientific names for its various asexual stages has become obsolete. Species with no sexual stage can be placed with those that have. Even in the 1960s, Aspergillus monographer Kenneth Raper used one name for one fungus in Aspergillus.

Mycology is unique in permitting different binomials to be applied to the various sporing stages of the same living species. The need to evolve from this archaic position to that of a single name for one species in all its sporing states was advocated by Don Reynolds and John Taylor in 1991. In 2005, the XVII International Botanical Congress established a committee to consider options for changing the pertinent rules: that committee is due to report in 2011.

O'Gorman and colleagues did not contravene the current international rules in introducing N. fumigata, but have precipitated a potential source of confusion. That name is now available to apply to all stages of this fungus, including the asexual. The scientific community faces the prospect of reference to this species, even when dealing with just the asexual stage, using only the Neosartorya name.

The pragmatic approach is to use only the name A. fumigatus, regardless of whether the sexual or the asexual stage of the fungus is being referred to. This would be in line with the practice in A. nidulans, where the available name Emericella nidulans, based on the sexual stage of that species, is largely ignored.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Additional information

Contributions may be submitted to correspondence@nature.com and will be edited.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Hawksworth, D. Separate name for fungus's sexual stage may cause confusion. Nature 458, 29 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1038/458029c

Download citation

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing