Has taxonomic vandalism gone too far? A case study, the rise of the pay-to-publish model and the pitfalls of Morchella systematics

Michael Loizides*, Pablo Alvarado, Pierre Arthur Moreau, Boris Assyov, Viktorie Halasů, Marc Stadler, Andrea Rinaldi, Guilhermina Marques, Georgios I. Zervakis, Jan Borovička, Nicolas Van Vooren, Tine Grebenc, Franck Richard, Hatira Taşkin, Matthias Gube, Carmel Sammut, Carlo Agnello, Timothy J. Baroni, Pedro Crous, Vassiliki FryssouliZacharoula Gonou, Urbano Guidori, Gro Gulden, Karen Hansen, Roy Kristiansen, Thomas Læssøe, Javier Mateos, Andrew Miller, Gabriel Moreno, Branislav Perić, Elias Polemis, Joan Carles Salom, José Leonardo Siquier, Martin Snabl, Øyvind Weholt, Jean Michel Bellanger

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/periodicalBook/Film/Article reviewScientific

10 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-38
Number of pages32
JournalMycological Progress
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 04 Mar 2022


  • Cryptic species
  • Genealogical Concordance Phylogenetic Species Recognition
  • Integrative taxonomy
  • Methodology
  • Morels
  • Nomenclature
  • Phylogenetics
  • Species delimitation
  • Systematics


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