Wildlife

“Spongebob” Mushroom Named

Mushrooms are poisonous, hallucinogenic, glowing, and now, thanks to a new study, named after a children’s cartoon character.

The new species, Spongiforma squarepantsii— found in 2010 in Sarawak, Malaysia—has a spongy appearance that reminded scientists of TV’s Spongebob Squarepants.

“It’s just like a sponge with these big hollow holes,” San Francisco State University’s Dennis Desjardin said in a statement. “When it’s wet and moist and fresh, you can wring water out of it and it will spring back to its original size. Most mushrooms don’t do that.” (Read more about the mushroom.)

There’s only one other species known so far in the Spongiforma genus, which lives in central Thailand and has a different color and odor. S. squarepantsii has a bright orange hue and smells “vaguely fruity or strongly musty,” according to the study, published in May in the journal Mycologia.

 

Spongiforma squarepantsii

Image courtesy Tom Bruns, UC Berkeley

When Desjardin and colleagues looked at the new mushroom under a scanning electron microscope, they found even more spongy similarities—for instance, the spore-producing area of the fungus resembles a seafloor carpeted in tube sponges (see picture below).

Believe it or not, this isn’t the first species recently named after a cartoon character—at least familiarly. In western Colombia in 2010, scientists happened upon a new beaked toad with a long, pointy, snoutlike nose that earned a nickname of the Mr. Burns toad, after the nefarious villain from The Simpsons television series, Conservation International expedition leader Robin Moore said in a November statement.

(Read my recent post on unusual species names.)

One thing’s for certain—there are more more weird fungi out there. Only five percent of Earth’s fungi species have been found, and there may be up to three million still unknown, according to the university.

 

The mushroom’s spores resemble tube sponges.

Image courtesy Tom Bruns, UC Berkeley

Desjardin has done his fair share scouting out new fungi species—in 2009, I reported on his discovery of Mycena luxaeterna (see picture), which glows nonstop in the Brazilian night.

His team searched for glow-in-the-dark mushrooms during new moons, in rain forests so dark the researchers often couldn’t see their hands in front of their faces, Desjardin told National Geographic News in 2009. (See more pictures of glowing mushrooms.)

But “when you look down at the ground, it’s like looking up at the sky,” Desjardin said. “Every little ‘star’ was a little mushroom—it was just fantastic.”

Check out more weird coverage on National Geographic News.

Christine Dell'Amore, environment writer/editor for National Geographic News, has reported from six continents, including Antarctica. She has also written for Smithsonian magazine and the Washington Post. Christine holds a masters degree in journalism with a specialty in environmental reporting from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her book, South Pole, was published in 2012.
  • […] Weird & Wild: “Spongebob” Mushroom Named – National Geographic News Watch via newswatch.nationalgeographic.com […]

  • […] …But that’s not even a sponge! […]

  • Comic book guy

    Mr. Burns is the sinister billionaire in the Simpsons- not really a villain

  • […] Meet Spongiforma squarepantsii, a recently identified species of mushroom whimsically named after a certain Porifera who lives in a pineapple under the sea. […]

  • Random Dude

    O.o whrs mr krabs and plankton? and squidy 🙂

  • carlota capuz

    just wait…maybe patrick mushroom is just there around ready to be found!

  • carlota capuz

    patrick , mr. crab and squidward mushroom are just there arond ready to be discovered!

  • claudia

    I funghi sono tossici, allucinogeni, emettendo luce ed ora, grazie ad un nuovo studio, nominato dopo un personaggio dei cartoni animati dei bambini. Le nuove specie, squarepantsii- di Spongiforma trovato nel 2010 in Sarawak, Malesia-ha un aspetto spugnoso che ha ricordato agli scienziati dello Spongebob Squarepants della TV. “È appena come una spugna con questi grandi fori vuoti,„ il Dennis Desjardin dell’università di Stato di San Francisco ha detto in una dichiarazione. “Quando è bagnata ed umida e fresca, potete estorcere l’acqua da e balzerà di nuovo alla sua dimensione originale. La maggior parte dei funghi non fanno quello.„ (Colto più circa il fungo.) c’è soltanto uno altre specie conosciute finora nel genere di Spongiforma, che vive in Tailandia centrale ed ha un colore e un odore differenti. Lo squarepantsii dello S. ha una tonalità arancio luminosa ed odori “vago fruttati o forte ammuffiti,„ secondo lo studio, pubblicato a maggio nel giornale Mycologia.

  • AliceHearts

    @carlota; HOW ABOUT SQUIDWARD MUSHROOM?

  • Jacob

    And like that, even decades from now when sponge bob is but a distant sin of a forgotten age, the world will have this reminder of the taint that plagued a generation. I’ll just pray that a new cat species isn’t discovered and named felis hellokittyae…

  • Juvy Love L. Lacre

    “Spongiforma Squarepantsii”… not bad…very unique name..^_^

  • Dudo

    I’m curious about that other Spongiforma “living” in Thailand. Mushrooms do live, or it’s just in Thailand? Perhaps, I start to be careful about thai food

  • khairul nizam

    hahaha.. proud to be Malaysian.. there are more to be discover ! maybe Patrickorma Starfishii? who knows!

  • Afrida

    It doesnt look square…:’/

  • pioxy

    nice name huh…

  • Andrea Wilson

    its silly to name things after cartoons. after people sure but seriously….cartoons? did a 7 year old discover this mushroom and do all the research because it seems that way

  • Lloyd Abao

    they started naming creatures from cartoons now.?
    man, i wonder when they gonna name after something like “Voltron”, “Voltes 5”, “Power Rangers”…

  • ummud darda

    those scientists surely have good sense of humor

  • melvin shei quindag

    good name

  • batlizard

    I’m honored.

  • Benedictus W

    Really funny ^.^
    Just hope it’s in Indonesia 😀

  • EvelynW~OL

    Oh, you’ve got to be kidding me.
    What a completely ridiculous name. I second Jacob’s statement. It’s unbelievable how they simply named it in such a way.

  • […] Square-shaped sponge by the name – the schoolboy pants are an optional feature. Filed under animals Comment (RSS)  |  Trackback  |  Permalink […]

  • kaitlynh.

    You people need to lighten up and quit being so up tight its funny and I get up…you people should to

  • Samantha Agrade

    These scientist sure know how to be humorous despite being in a serious occupation.

    @Jacob felis hellokittyae? Hmm.. if ever a cat specie is named felis hellokittyae, it will probably have odd big anime ayes, white fur and a pink patch on the corner of its head, resembling a ribbon XD

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