Spongebob Squarepants mushroom (Spongiforma squarepantsii)

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom

Top facts

  • The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is orange, full of holes and looks like a sea sponge, and is therefore said to resemble the infamous cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants.
  • A terrestrial fungus, the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is known only from the tropical rainforest of the Lambir Hills National Park, on the island of Borneo.
  • When viewed under an electron microscope, the inner surface of the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom resembles the sea floor where the character Spongebob Squarepants himself lives. 
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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom fact file

Spongebob Squarepants mushroom description

KingdomFungi
PhylumBasidiomycota
ClassAgaricomycetes
OrderBoletales
FamilyBoletaceae
GenusSpongiforma (1)

The newly discovered Spongebob Squarepants mushroom, named after the world’s most famous cartoon sponge, was formally described in 2011. This species belongs to the relatively new Spongiforma genus that was first described from Thailand in 2009 (1).

The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is recognisable by its reproductive spore-bearing organs, or basidiomes, which are small, rubbery and sponge-like. The basidiomes are pale whitish-orange on the outer surface and deep orange inside, with small but deep cavities that are lined with spore-producing tissue. They are around 30 to 50 millimetres in diameter and 20 to 30 millimetres tall. The spores themselves are reddish-brown with a bumpy surface (1).

Lacking a stem, the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom instead has a narrow, branched central column that is attached to a rough, root-like aggregation of filaments, or hyphae, which stretch out to gather food and nutrients (1).

The odour of the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is said to be either slightly fruity, or strongly musty (1)

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom biology

There is little information currently available on the biology of the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom. However, it is suggested that this species’ reproductive spores are dispersed by animals that are attracted to its distinctive smell (1) (2). Animals attracted to the fruiting body, or spore-producing organ, are likely to eat it and disperse the spores as they defecate (2).

Spongiforma species are typically found in association with dipterocarp trees on both mainland Southeast Asia and the island of Borneo, leading scientists to predict that more members of the genus will be found in other regions where dipterocarp species are dominant (1).

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom range

The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is only known from the Lambir Hills National Park, northern Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sarawak (1)

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom habitat

Always found beneath tall dipterocarp trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae, which are commonly used for their resin and timber, the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom grows in the Lambir Hills National Park in Borneo. This National Park is a tropical rainforest that receives around 3,000 millimetres of rain every year, and has no seasons. The daily temperature ranges from 24 to 32 degrees Celsius, and although the forest itself is dominated by dipterocarp species, it also contains more than 1,000 other tree species (1)

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom status

The Spongebob Squarepants mushroom is not yet classified on the IUCN Red List. 

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom threats

There are no known threats to the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom at present. The Lambir Hills National Park has the highest tree species diversity in the world (3), and is reported to be beautiful and relatively undisturbed (4)

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Spongebob Squarepants mushroom conservation

There are no known conservation measures currently in place for the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom.

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Find out more

Find out more about the Spongebob Squarepants mushroom:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Dipterocarp
Trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae: resinous trees that are found in the old world tropics.
Fruit body
In fungi, the fruit body is the visible part of the fungus which bears spores (microscopic particles involved in reproduction).
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Hyphae
The branching, threadlike filaments that make up the vegetative (non-reproductive) part of a fungus.
Spores
Microscopic particles produced by many non-flowering plants and fungi that are capable of developing into a new individual. Spores are adapted for dispersal and surviving for long periods of time in unfavourable conditions.
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References

  1. Desjardin, D., Peay, K. and Bruns, T. (2011) Spongiforma squarepantsii, a new species of gasteroid bolete from Borneo. Mycologia, 103(5): 1119-1123. Available at:
    http://nature.berkeley.edu/brunslab/papers/desjardin2011.pdf
  2. Bruns, T. and Desjardin, D. (2010) Spongiforma squarepantsii: What’s in a name? and what’s the underlying biology? Mushroom the Journal, 107(28): 55-59. Available at:
    http://nature.berkeley.edu/brunslab/papers/bruns2011.pdf
  3. Azlan, J. and Lading, E. (2006) Camera trapping and conservation in Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak. The Raffles Bulletin of Zoology, 54(2): 469-475.
    http://rmbr.nus.edu.sg/rbz/biblio/54/54rbz469-475.pdf
  4. WWF - The Malaysian Rainforest (January, 2013)
    http://www.wwf.org.my/about_wwf/what_we_do/forests_main/the_malaysian_rainforest/
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Image credit

Spongebob Squarepants mushroom  
Spongebob Squarepants mushroom

© Tom Bruns

Tom Bruns
pogon@berkeley.edu

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