The contribution of stress protein duplication and deletion events to the evolution of the Aspergilli was studied. We performed a large-scale homology analysis of stress proteins and generated and analysed three stress defence system models based on Saccharomyces cerevisiae, Schizosaccharomyces pombe and Aspergillus nidulans. Although both yeast-based and A. nidulans-based models were suitable to trace evolutionary changes, the A. nidulans-based model performed better in mapping stress protein radiations. The strong Mantel correlation found between the positions of species in the phylogenetic tree on the one hand and either in the A. nidulans-based or S. cerevisiae-based models on the other hand demonstrated that stress protein expansions and reductions contributed significantly to the evolution of the Aspergilli. Interestingly, stress tolerance attributes correlated well with the number of orthologs only for a few stress proteins. Notable examples are Ftr1 iron permease and Fet3 ferro-O(2)-oxidoreductase, elements of the reductive iron assimilation pathway, in the S. cerevisiae-based model, as well as MpkC, a HogA-like mitogen activated protein kinase in the A. nidulans-based model. In the case of the iron assimilation proteins, the number of orthologs showed a positive correlation with H(2)O(2)-induced stress tolerance while the number of MpkC orthologs correlated positively with Congo Red induced cell wall stress, sorbitol induced osmotic stress and H(2)O(2) induced oxidative stress tolerances. For most stress proteins, changes in the number of orthologs did not correlate well with any stress tolerance attributes. As a consequence, stress tolerance patterns of the studied Aspergilli did not correlate with either the sets of stress response proteins in general or with the phylogeny of the species studied. These observations suggest that stress protein duplication and deletion events significantly contributed to the evolution of stress tolerance attributes of Aspergilli. In contrast, there are other processes, which may counterbalance the effects of stress gene duplications or deletions including (i) alterations in the structures of stress proteins leading to changes in their biological activities, (ii) varying biosynthesis of stress proteins, (iii) rewiring stress response regulatory networks or even (iv) acquiring new stress response genes by horizontal gene transfer. All these multilevel changes are indispensable for the successful adaptation of filamentous fungi to altering environmental conditions, especially when these organisms are entering new ecological niches.