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Absorbent and yellow and porous is he,
Spongiforma squarepantsii.


Found: Spongebob. Image by ep_jhu

Named for the best cartoon character ever, Spongebob Squarepants, this recently discovered species is not a sponge, but a fungus.
Discovered in Borneo Spongiforma squarepantsii has a characteristic smell which is “vaguely fruity or strongly musty,” according to the paper published in Mycologia.

It’s a weird fungus though. Not much of a mushroom. Dennis Desjardin from San Francisco State University said “It’s just like a sponge with these big hollow holes.” (via the press release.)

“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.”

Though it looks different, Spongiforma species are related to the edible porcini mushroom. It’s ancestor would have had the traditional cap and stem fashion too, but has been lost over time.

Caps and stems are an evolutionary adaptation designed to keep spores moist and alive. A stem lifts the fungus up so spores can be dispersed better, and an umbrella-like cap keeps spores from drying out.


Spongiforma Squarepantsii, image by Tom Bruns, U.C. Berkeley

Spongiforma fungi are a little different. It stores water in its sponginess, and revives quickly if it dries out by absorbing moisture from humid air.
Finding new fungi is an adventure… I wonder if they’re looking for any volunteers? “We go to underexplored forests around the world, and we spend months at a time collecting all the mushrooms and focusing on various groups,” said Dennis.

“When we do that type of work, on average, anywhere from 25 percent to 30 percent of the species are new to science.”

And I just love Spongebob. He has just the best outlook on life and work ethic. Who else wakes up and says “I’m awake!” “I’m ready, I’m ready!” When I grow up, I want to be Spongebob.

Oh, and can someone make me these cupcakes for my birthday?