Claviceps gigantea (horse's tooth)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature
- Distribution Table
- Risk of Introduction
- Hosts/Species Affected
- Host Plants and Other Plants Affected
- Growth Stages
- List of Symptoms/Signs
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Seedborne Aspects
- Pathway Vectors
- Plant Trade
- Impact Summary
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Detection and Inspection
- Prevention and Control
- Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Claviceps gigantea SF Fuentes, Isla, Ullstrup & AE Rodr 1964 (teleomorph)
Preferred Common Name
- horse's tooth
Other Scientific Names
- Sphacelia sp. SF Fuentes, Isla, Ullstrup & AE Rodr 1964 (anamorph)
International Common Names
- English: ergot of maize; maize ergot
- Spanish: cornezuelo del maíz; diente de caballo
- French: ergot du maïs
Local Common Names
- Germany: Mutterkorn: Mais
- CLAVGI (Claviceps gigantea)
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
This pathogen only occurs in certain high humid valleys of Mexico and is apparently not adapted to surrounding drier areas where maize [Zea mays] is certainly grown. Its host range and environmental tolerances have not been determined, so that the risk that would result from an introduction to distant regions cannot be known. Human mistakes, such as the transport of contaminated maize seed, would be the most likely means by which it could bypass ecological and geographic barriers to reach other humid parts of the world, where it might be a problem on maize. In Mexico, it can reduce yield of a maize ear by 50% (Fucikovsky and Moreno, 1971), so preventing its spread is a serious consideration.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Fungi
- Phylum: Ascomycota
- Subphylum: Pezizomycotina
- Class: Sordariomycetes
- Subclass: Hypocreomycetidae
- Order: Hypocreales
- Family: Clavicipitaceae
- Genus: Claviceps
- Species: Claviceps gigantea
Notes on Taxonomy and NomenclatureTop of page
Fuentes et al. (1964) clearly described both the symptoms of horse's tooth and the morphology of the causal organism, C. gigantea. They also demonstrated that C. gigantea, but not C. purpurea, is pathogenic to maize.
DescriptionTop of page
Sclerotia initially white to cream, 5-8 x 2-5 cm, soft, sticky and hollow, later becoming hard and horny, white to brown, with pink to lavender centres, often comma-shaped, resembling a horse's tooth.
Stromata long-stalked, stalks 26-58 x 2-3.5 mm diameter, pink to reddish-brown, heads capitate or globose, 32–55 mm diameter, pink, sticky.
Perithecia flask-shaped, 338-444 x 152-164 µm, in large numbers within stroma, ostioles visible as darker spots on the stroma surface.
Asci cylindrical, 187-201 x 4.5-4.7 µm, eight-spored.
Ascospores filiform, hyaline, aseptate, 176-186 x 1.5 µm.
Conidiogenous cells in palisades on sclerotium surface and lining walls of cavities, proliferating percurrently, 8-17 x 2-3 µm.
Macroconidia ellipsoidal, 8.3-27 x 4.2-5.8 µm. Microconidia ovoid, 4.2-6.7 x 2.5-3.3 µm. Both hyaline, aseptate (Fuentes et al., 1964).
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 12 May 2022
Risk of IntroductionTop of page
Hosts/Species AffectedTop of page
Host Plants and Other Plants AffectedTop of page
|Zea mays (maize)||Poaceae||Main|
Growth StagesTop of page
SymptomsTop of page
List of Symptoms/SignsTop of page
|Inflorescence / black fungal spores|
|Inflorescence / honeydew or sooty mould|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
ClimateTop of page
|Cw - Warm temperate climate with dry winter||Preferred||Warm temperate climate with dry winter (Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry winters)|
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Local dispersal is natural, by means of airborne ascospores, and possibly by means of insect-borne conidia (White, 1999), or accidental, by transportation of sclerotia in harvested ears or in soil.
Seedborne AspectsTop of page
Many seeds on an ear can be replaced by sclerotia (Fuentes et al., 1964).
Effect on Seed Quality
Germination can be reduced by 50% in seeds from ears bearing only one sclerotium (Fucikovsky and Moreno, 1971). Germination is affected more by sclerotia distributed over the cob than by localized sclerotia (Moreno and Fucikovsky, 1972).
Sclerotia that might be planted with seed could be a source of inoculum (Fuentes et al., 1964).
Seed Health Tests
Seedlots can be examined for comma-shaped sclerotia.
Pathway VectorsTop of page
Plant TradeTop of page
|Plant parts liable to carry the pest in trade/transport||Pest stages||Borne internally||Borne externally||Visibility of pest or symptoms|
|Flowers/Inflorescences/Cones/Calyx||fungi/hyphae; fungi/sclerotia; fungi/spores||Yes||Yes||Pest or symptoms not visible to the naked eye but usually visible under light microscope|
|True seeds (inc. grain)||fungi/sclerotia||Yes||Pest or symptoms usually visible to the naked eye|
|Plant parts not known to carry the pest in trade/transport|
|Fruits (inc. pods)|
|Growing medium accompanying plants|
|Stems (above ground)/Shoots/Trunks/Branches|
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
The disease is confined to high, humid mountain valleys in central Mexico (Fucikovsky and Moreno, 1971; Ullstrup, 1973). It is endemic in these areas and can infect over 50% of maize [Zea mays] ears (Fucikovsky and Moreno, 1971). A single sclerotium in a maize ear can cause a 50% reduction in seed germination (Fucikovsky and Moreno, 1971).
Alkaloids of the dihydroergoline type are present in sclerotia, but their toxicity to humans and animals is not known (Pazoutova, 2003).
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Abundant in its native range
- Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year
- Reproduces asexually
- Host damage
- Negatively impacts agriculture
DiagnosisTop of page
Detection and InspectionTop of page
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
Gaps in Knowledge/Research NeedsTop of page
The potential host range and the means of dispersal of conidia outside the ear should be determined, because these are avenues by which the pathogen could be spread naturally beyond its current limited distribution.
ReferencesTop of page
Alvarez MG, 1976. Primer catalogo de enfermedades de plantas Mexicanas. Fitofilo, 71:1-169.
EPPO, 2014. PQR database. Paris, France: European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization. http://www.eppo.int/DATABASES/pqr/pqr.htm
Fucikovsky L; Moreno M, 1971. Distribution of Claviceps gigantea and its percent attack on two lines of corn in the state of Mexico, Mexico. Plant Disease Reporter, 55:231-233.
Fuentes SF; de la Isla ML; Ullstrup AJ; Rodriguez AE, 1964. Claviceps gigantea, a new pathogen of maize in Mexico. Phytopathology, 54:379-381.
Moreno M; Fucikovsky L, 1972. Effect of position and number of sclerotia of Claviceps gigantea on maize germination. Fitopatologia, 5:7-9.
Pazoutova S, 2003. The evolutionary strategy of Claviceps. In: Clavicipitalean Fungi: evolutionary biology, chemistry, biocontrol and cultural impact [ed. by White Jr JF, Bacon CW, Hywel Jones NL, Spatafora JW] New York, USA: Marcel Dekker Inc, 329-354. [Mycology Series No.19.]
Shurtleff MC, 1980. Compendium of Corn Diseases. St Paul, Minnesota, USA: APS Press, 37.
Tooley PW; Ranajit Bandyopadhyay; Carras MM; Pazoutová S, 2006. Analysis of Claviceps africana and C. sorghi from India using AFLPs, EF-1alpha gene intron 4, and beta-tubulin gene intron 3. Mycological Research, 110(4):441-451. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B7XMR-4JJGCC5-1&_user=10&_coverDate=04%2F30%2F2006&_rdoc=11&_fmt=summary&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info(%23toc%2329677%232006%23998899995%23621877%23FLA%23display%23Volume)&_cdi=29677&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_ct=19&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=ecadd1112aea577c6faf6b0ba2cdaa98
Ullstrup AJ, 1973. Maize ergot: a disease with a restricted ecological niche. PANS 19:389-391.
Ullstrup AJ, 1973. Maize ergot: a disease with a restricted ecological niche. In: PANS, 19 389-391.
OrganizationsTop of page
Mexico: International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Lisboa 27, Apdo, Postal 6-641, 06600, http://www.cimmyt.org
ContributorsTop of page
10/09/09 Updated by:
Distribution MapsTop of page
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CABI Summary Records
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