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Nomenclature of fungi


Nomenclature of fungi refers to naming and fungi and other organisms are named according to the binomial system, which was introduced by Carl Linnaeus (1674-1748). This means that a fungus has both a species name, which is composed of a genus name that tells you to which genus it belongs and a species epithet which, together with the genus name, is unique to the fungus. An example of this is Sporotrix schenkii, where the genus name shows that this fungus belongs to the genus Sporotrix and the species epithet indicates that in this case has the bacterium first been isolated by someone named Schenk. The genus name and the species epithet form together the scientific name of the species, which is always written in italics. Fungal names are international and Latin or latinized Greek are used to form the name. If misunderstandings cannot occur, you can abbreviate the genus name after it has been written for the first time in a text. Macrorhabdus ornithogaster for instance, can be written M. ornithogaster.

There are strict international rules for how fungi should be named and these rules have been published in a document named: "International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi and plants" (1). In order to get a suggested name for a new fungus accepted, you must register the name in an official register, e.g. MycoBank (2). More information can be obtained through the International Mycological Association (3).

Trivial name

"Amphibian chytrid fungus" is an example of a trivial name, which is used in English for the fungus Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, but there are not trivial names for all fungi and sometimes you only use the genus name, which can give rise to misunderstandings. If you are referring to a specific species, it is always best to use the full scientific name.

Alternatve species name

For a long time, there has been a double set of names of fungi, which occur in two different forms (morphs) depending on the sexual stage they are in. Fungi that are in an asexual mitotic stage (morph) are said to be anamorphic and fungi that are in a sexual meiotic stage (morph) are said to be teleomorphic. It was long believed that these stages represented different species and they were consequently given different names. Today, one strives for one and the same name to apply to both morphs and then they talk about holomorph.

Subspecies, strains and isolates

Sometimes there is a need to divide fungal species into subspecies, because they are too closely related to be considered different species, but too distantly related to be considered as the same species. In this case, a subspecies is introduced by adding a subspecies epithet and writing (subsp. or var.) in front of the subspecies epithet. An example of this is Trichophyton equinum subsp. equinum. When dividing a species into several subspecies, the original species always gets the same subspecies epithet as the species epithet.

For fungi, it can be difficult to define a strain because, you may not know if the isolate you have is clonal and then you talk about isolate instead.


1. May TW, Redhead SA, Bensch K et al. 2019. Chapter F of the International Code of Nomenclature for algae, fungi, and plants as approved by the 11th International Mycological Congress, San Juan, Puerto Rico, July 2018. IMA Fungus. doi 10.1186/s43008-019-0019-1

2. MycoBank (Int. Mycol. Assoc.).

3. International Mycological Association (IMA).




Updated: 2022-04-13.

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