Fungi imperfecti

Fungi imperfecti

[im-per-fek-tahy]

The fungi imperfecti, or imperfect fungi, are fungi which do not fit into the commonly established taxonomic classifications of fungi that are based on biological species concepts or morphological characteristics of sexual structures because their sexual form of reproduction has never been observed; hence the name "imperfect fungi." Only their asexual form of reproduction is known, meaning that this group of fungus produces their spores asexually.

The Deuteromycota (Greek for "second fungi") were once considered a formal phylum of the kingdom Fungi. The term is now used only informally, to denote species of fungi that are asexually reproducing members of the fungal phyla, Ascomycota and Basidiomycota.

There are about 25,000 species that have been classified in the deuteromycota. Fungi producing the antibiotic penicillin and those that cause athlete's foot and yeast infections are imperfect fungi. In addition, there are a number of edible imperfect fungi, including the ones that provide the distinctive characteristics of Roquefort and Camembert cheese.

Other, more informal, names besides Deuteromycota ("Deuteromycetes") and fungi imperfecti, are anamorphic fungi, or mitosporic fungi, but these are terms without taxonomic rank.

Problems in taxonomic classification

Although Deuteromycota is no longer formally accepted as a taxon, many of the fungi it included have yet to find a place in modern fungal classification. This is because most fungi are classified based on characteristics of the fruiting bodies and spores produced during sexual reproduction, and members of the Deuteromycota have only been observed to produce asexual or no spores.

For this reason, mycologists are unique among those who study extant organisms in using a dual system of nomenclature. Dual naming is permitted by Article 59 of the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (which governs the naming of plants and fungi). Under this system, a name for an asexually reproducing fungus is considered a form taxon. For example, the ubiquitous and industrially important mold, Aspergillus niger, has no known sexual cycle. Thus Aspergillus niger is considered a form taxon. In contrast, isolates of its close relative, Aspergillus nidulans, were found to possess a sexual state and named Emericella nidulans. When a teleomorph is known, its name takes priority over the name of the anamorph, hence the latter fungus is properly called Emericella nidulans.

Phylogeny and taxonomy

Phylogenetic classification of asexually reproducing fungi now commonly uses molecular systematics. Phylogenetic trees constructed from comparative analyses of DNA sequences, such as rDNA, or multigene phylogenies may be used to infer relationships between asexually reproducing fungi and their sexually reproducing counterparts. With these methods, many asexually reproducing fungi have now been placed in the tree of life. However, because phylogenetic methods require sufficient quantities of biological materials (spores or fresh specimens) that are from pure (i.e., uncontaminated) fungal cultures, for many asexual species their exact relationship with other fungal species has yet to be determined. Under the current system of fungal nomenclature, teleomorph names cannot be applied to fungi that lack sexual structures. Classifying and naming asexually reproducing fungi is the subject of ongoing debate in the mycological community.

Historical classification of the Imperfect Fungi

These groups are no longer formally accepted because they do not adhere to the principle of monophyly. The taxon names are sometimes used informally. In particular, the term 'hyphomycetes' is often used to refer to molds, and the term 'coelomycetes' is used to refer to many asexually reproducing plant pathogens that form discrete fruiting bodies. Other systems of classification are reviewed by Kendrick (1981).

Common Species

Industrially-relevant Fungi

References

Bibliography

  • Gams, W. 1995. How natural should anamorph genera be? Canadian Journal of Botany 73 (suppl 1):S747-S753.
  • Kendrick, B. 1981. The history of conidial fungi, Pages 3-18 in GT Cole and B Kendrick, eds. Biology of Conidial Fungi. New York, Academic Press.
  • Seifert, KA. 1993. Integrating anamorphic fungi into the fungal system, Pages 79-85 in DR Reynolds, and JW Taylor, eds. The Fungal Holomorph: mitotic, meiotic and pleomorphic speciation in fungal systematics. Wallingford, UK, CAB International.
  • Taylor, JW. 1995. Making the Deuteromycota redundant: a practical integration of mitosporic and meiosporic fungi. Canadian Journal of Botany 73 (suppl 1):S754-S759.

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