• Considerations and consequences of allowing DNA sequence data as types of fungal taxa.

      Zamora, Juan Carlos; Svensson, Måns; Kirschner, Roland; Olariaga, Ibai; Ryman, Svengunnar; Parra, Luis Alberto; Geml, József; Rosling, Anna; Adamčík, Slavomír; Ahti, Teuvo; et al. (2018-06-01)
      Nomenclatural type definitions are one of the most important concepts in biological nomenclature. Being physical objects that can be re-studied by other researchers, types permanently link taxonomy (an artificial agreement to classify biological diversity) with nomenclature (an artificial agreement to name biological diversity). Two proposals to amend the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants (ICN), allowing DNA sequences alone (of any region and extent) to serve as types of taxon names for voucherless fungi (mainly putative taxa from environmental DNA sequences), have been submitted to be voted on at the 11th International Mycological Congress (Puerto Rico, July 2018). We consider various genetic processes affecting the distribution of alleles among taxa and find that alleles may not consistently and uniquely represent the species within which they are contained. Should the proposals be accepted, the meaning of nomenclatural types would change in a fundamental way from physical objects as sources of data to the data themselves. Such changes are conducive to irreproducible science, the potential typification on artefactual data, and massive creation of names with low information content, ultimately causing nomenclatural instability and unnecessary work for future researchers that would stall future explorations of fungal diversity. We conclude that the acceptance of DNA sequences alone as types of names of taxa, under the terms used in the current proposals, is unnecessary and would not solve the problem of naming putative taxa known only from DNA sequences in a scientifically defensible way. As an alternative, we highlight the use of formulas for naming putative taxa (candidate taxa) that do not require any modification of the ICN.
    • Ten reasons why a sequence-based nomenclature is not useful for fungi anytime soon.

      Thines, Marco; Crous, Pedro W; Aime, M Catherine; Aoki, Takayuki; Cai, Lei; Hyde, Kevin D; Miller, Andrew N; Zhang, Ning; Stadler, Marc; HZI,Helmholtz-Zentrum für Infektionsforschung GmbH, Inhoffenstr. 7,38124 Braunschweig, Germany. (BMC, 2018-05-28)
      The large number of species still to be discovered in fungi, together with an exponentially growing number of environmental sequences that cannot be linked to known taxa, has fuelled the idea that it might be necessary to formally name fungi on the basis of sequence data only. Here we object to this idea due to several shortcomings of the approach, ranging from concerns regarding reproducibility and the violation of general scientific principles to ethical issues. We come to the conclusion that sequence-based nomenclature is potentially harmful for mycology as a discipline. Additionally, a classification based on sequences as types is not within reach anytime soon, because there is a lack of consensus regarding common standards due to the fast pace at which sequencing technologies develop.
    • Unambiguous identification of fungi: where do we stand and how accurate and precise is fungal DNA barcoding?

      Lücking, Robert; Aime, M Catherine; Robbertse, Barbara; Miller, Andrew N; Ariyawansa, Hiran A; Aoki, Takayuki; Cardinali, Gianluigi; Crous, Pedro W; Druzhinina, Irina S; Geiser, David M; et al. (BMC, 2020-07-10)
      True fungi (Fungi) and fungus-like organisms (e.g. Mycetozoa, Oomycota) constitute the second largest group of organisms based on global richness estimates, with around 3 million predicted species. Compared to plants and animals, fungi have simple body plans with often morphologically and ecologically obscure structures. This poses challenges for accurate and precise identifications. Here we provide a conceptual framework for the identification of fungi, encouraging the approach of integrative (polyphasic) taxonomy for species delimitation, i.e. the combination of genealogy (phylogeny), phenotype (including autecology), and reproductive biology (when feasible). This allows objective evaluation of diagnostic characters, either phenotypic or molecular or both. Verification of identifications is crucial but often neglected. Because of clade-specific evolutionary histories, there is currently no single tool for the identification of fungi, although DNA barcoding using the internal transcribed spacer (ITS) remains a first diagnosis, particularly in metabarcoding studies. Secondary DNA barcodes are increasingly implemented for groups where ITS does not provide sufficient precision. Issues of pairwise sequence similarity-based identifications and OTU clustering are discussed, and multiple sequence alignment-based phylogenetic approaches with subsequent verification are recommended as more accurate alternatives. In metabarcoding approaches, the trade-off between speed and accuracy and precision of molecular identifications must be carefully considered. Intragenomic variation of the ITS and other barcoding markers should be properly documented, as phylotype diversity is not necessarily a proxy of species richness. Important strategies to improve molecular identification of fungi are: (1) broadly document intraspecific and intragenomic variation of barcoding markers; (2) substantially expand sequence repositories, focusing on undersampled clades and missing taxa; (3) improve curation of sequence labels in primary repositories and substantially increase the number of sequences based on verified material; (4) link sequence data to digital information of voucher specimens including imagery. In parallel, technological improvements to genome sequencing offer promising alternatives to DNA barcoding in the future. Despite the prevalence of DNA-based fungal taxonomy, phenotype-based approaches remain an important strategy to catalog the global diversity of fungi and establish initial species hypotheses.