The Sordariomycetes is one of the largest classes in the Ascomycota with more than 600 genera and 3000 known species (Kirk et al 2001). It includes most non-lichenized ascomycetes with perithecial (flask-shaped) or less frequently cleistothecial (non-ostiolate) ascomata and inoperculate unitunicate or prototunicate asci (Alexopolous et al 1996).
The term “pyrenomycetes” was used to unite fungi with perithecial ascomata and unitunicate asci (Luttrell 1951). Its use was discontinued based on the placement of perithecial species outside of the clade and the inclusion of species with prototunicate asci (e.g. Corollospora and Ophiostoma), in order to avoid confusion.
Members of the Sordariomycetes are ubiquitous and cosmopolitan and function in virtually all ecosystems as pathogens and endophytes of plants, arthropod and mammalian pathogens, mycoparasites, and saprobes involved in decomposition and nutrient cycling. The most famous members include Cryphonectria parasitica (the causal agent of chestnut blight), Magnaporthe grisea (the cause of rice blast), and Neurospora crassa (the model organism widely used in molecular and genetic studies).
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