How do I name thee?
In a letter to the editor to the journal Nature, regarding the recently discovered/induced sexual stage in Aspergillus fumigatus, David Hawksworth argues that using the separate names for sexual (teleomorph) and asexual (anamorph) stages is confusing and unnecessary in this context.  The name Neosartorya fumigata is given to the sexual stage which was produced from two individuals which were both A. fumigatus. The letter writer makes the point that referring to a new name for the sexual stage when we already know what its anamorph is seems superfluous and overly confusing. He gives the analogy of Aspergillus nidulans where its teleomorph Emericella nidulans is “largely ignored”.

The double names for something which is the same species (i.e. has the same genomic sequence) is certainly a confusing aspect of mycology. It stems from the morphological description of species and that before DNA or molecular approaches to identification it was difficult to connect the anamorph and teleomorph stages unless you could induce the entire lifecycle in the laboratory. I think that the same name for homologous structures from different phyla is also equally confusing, but necessary aspect of how things are currently named and classified.

What researchers should described the sample/individual they are using for experiments in their manuscripts is important to avoid confusion and for readers so I think Prof Hawksworth makes an important point especially when discussing something where the anamorphs and teleomorphs are unified. Certainly an agreed upon protocol here would be quite helpful of what to preferably use when the stages have been connected.

Hawksworth, D. (2009). Separate name for fungus’s sexual stage may cause confusion Nature, 458 (7234), 29-29 DOI: 10.1038/458029c

One thought on “How do I name thee?”

  1. Go Hawksworth!

    It’s worth noting that the Dual Nomenclature controversy has been particularly hotly debated in Aspergillus. In fact, Raper and Fennell have been roundly criticized for decades for refusing to use teleomorph names in their 1965 monograph. In it, they explicitly state their case, saying, if I remember correctly, that two names was “needlessly confusing” (sorry, I don’t have an exact quote and I am 4000 miles from my copy). I do wish Hawksworth would have given them their propers in this note.

    Anyway, there is a movement under foot in mycology to abandon Article 59 one way or another. Instead of debating what to do with The Code, I say we “Just Say No” to Dual Nomenclature and vow not to create two names. I don’t fault Dyer at all for giving it a Neosartorya name (the news isn’t the name, it’s the sexual stage and how it was found — he was just following the rules).

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