Teleomorph, anamorph and holomorph

Teleomorph, anamorph and holomorph

For the artistic concept, see Anamorphosis.

The terms teleomorph, anamorph, and holomorph apply to portions of the life cycles of fungi in the phyla Ascomycota and Basidiomycota.

  • Teleomorph: the sexual reproductive stage (morph), typically a fruiting body.
  • Anamorph: an asexual reproductive stage (morph), often mold-like. When a single fungus produces multiple morphologically distinct anamorphs, they are called synanamorphs.
  • Holomorph: the whole fungus, including all anamorphs and the teleomorph.

Teleomorphs, anamorphs, and the naming of fungi

Fungi are classified primarily based on the structures associated with sexual reproduction, which tend to be evolutionarily conserved. However, many fungi reproduce only asexually, and cannot be easily placed in a classification based on sexual characters; some produce both asexual and sexual states. These problematic species are often members of the Ascomycota, but may also belong to the Basidiomycota. Even among fungi that reproduce both sexually and asexually, often only one method of reproduction can be observed at a specific point in time or under specific conditions. Additionally, fungi typically grow in mixed colonies and sporulate amongst each other. These facts have made it very difficult to link the various states of the same fungus. At present Article 59 of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature permits mycologists to give asexually reproducing fungi (anamorphs) separate names from their sexual states (teleomorphs). When names are available for both anamorph and teleomorph states of the same fungus, the holomorph either takes the teleomorph name, or it can under some circumstances take the anamorph name if it is subsequently epitypified with a teleomorph.

Fungi that are not known to produce a teleomorph were historically placed into an artificial phylum, the Deuteromycota, also known as Fungi Imperfecti, simply for convenience. The dual naming system can be confusing for novices. It is essential for workers in plant pathology, mold identification, medical mycology, and food microbiology, fields in which asexually reproducing fungi are commonly encountered.

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