Spongebob Squarepants Has a Name in Borneo Fungal Discovery

August 02, 2011
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A new species of fungi was recently discovered in the forests of Borneo. Those who travel to Borneo should keep their eyes peeled for a bright orange sponge that vaguely resembles the Nickelodeon character Spongebob Squarepants.

When it was discovered in 2010 in the Lambir Hills of Sarawak, Malaysia, it was named Spongiforma squarepantsii, and a description of it was published in Mycologia, a scientific journal devoted to fungi. Under a scanning electron microscope, the spore-producing area of the fungus looks like a forest of tube sponges on an ocean floor.

The mushroom can turn purple when sprinkled with a strong chemical base, and smells fruity or musty, according to Dennis Desjardin and his colleagues, researchers from the University of San Francisco who published the study. Only one other species has been discovered in the Spongiforma genus, and though genetic analysis proves that the two are related, the other species is found in central Thailand. Desjardins expects a wider range of locations to be discovered, he said in the journal.

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