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Spongiforma Squarepantsii, a New Species of Mushroom.

By: Sara Walter to biology

Spongiforma Squarepantsii. Photo by Tom Bruns.

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea… in the remote forest’s of Borneo? Yes it’s true there has been a new genus discovered and named after Nickelodeon’s fun loving character Spongebob Squarepants. Mycologist Dennis E. Desjardin had to convince the editors of the journal Mycologia to name his newly found species Spongiforma Squarepantsii, because they exclaimed the name was, “to frivolous”. Desjardin told them that it was his right to name the fungi anything he wanted to because it was his discovery and they finally gave in.

Dennis E. Desjardin is a mycologist at the San Fransisco State University and was brought this mushroom by his colleagues, Kabir Peay, a former Stanford postdoctoral fellow now at the University of Minnesota, and Peter Kennedy of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Ore., and Bruns. Peay, Bruns and Kennedy were doing research in Borneo’s Sarawak State when they came across the sponge-like mushroom. After looking at the mushroom under a microscope, Desjardin realized that the genes of this mushroom closely matched the genes of a mushroom that he discovered in Thailand two years prior. He then determined that they had to be a new genus and grouped the two with the species name Spongiforma Squarepantsii.

Spongiforma Squarepantsii derived it’s name from it’s appearance. An average mushroom’s anatomy consists of a cap and stem. The cap is primarily used to protect the fungi from drying out and the stem lifts the mushroom up off the ground in order for it to be spread easily by the wind and passing animals. However this new found species has invented it’s own means of survival by having the ability to stay moist using it’s sponge-like texture to soak up small amounts of moisture from the rain forest atmosphere.

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