The genus Morchella has gone through turbulent taxonomic treatments. Although significant progress in Morchella systematics has been achieved in the past decade, several problems remain unresolved and taxonomy in the genus is still in flux. In late 2019, a paper published in the open-access journal Scientific Reports raised serious concerns about the taxonomic stability of the genus, but also about the future of academic publishing. The paper, entitled “High diversity of Morchella and a novel lineage of the esculenta clade from the north Qinling Mountains revealed by GCPSR-based study” by Phanpadith and colleagues, suffered from gross methodological errors, included false results and artifactual phylogenies, had misapplied citations throughout, and proposed a new species name invalidly. Although the paper was eventually retracted by Scientific Reports in 2021, the fact that such an overtly flawed and scientifically unsound paper was published in a high-ranked Q1 journal raises alarming questions about quality controls and safekeeping procedures in scholarly publishing. Using this paper as a case study, we provide a critical review on the pitfalls of Morchella systematics followed by a series of recommendations for the delimitation of species, description of taxa, and ultimately for a sustainable taxonomy in Morchella. Problems and loopholes in the academic publishing system are also identified and discussed, and additional quality controls in the pre- and post-publication stages are proposed.
- Cryptic species
- Genealogical Concordance Phylogenetic Species Recognition
- Integrative taxonomy
- Species delimitation