(Photo credit: Thomas Bruns, Interior (left) and exterior (right) views of Spongiforma squarepantsii; center: Dennis E. Desjardin & Andrew Ichimura, SEM photograph of spores of Spongiforma squarepantsii)
Name: Spongiforma squarepantsii
Common Name: Spongebob Squarepants Mushroom
How it made the Top 10: Named after the cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants, this new species looks more like a sponge than a stereotypical mushroom and its fruiting body can actually be squeezed like a sponge and bounce back to its normal size and shape. This unusual mushroom is only the second species of the bolete fungus genus Spongiforma and according to the authors, “its unusual shape is unlike anything else known.” Beyond having a shape that brings Spongebob Squarepants to mind, the authors note other similarities between the fungus and the cartoon personality. The mushrooms smells fruity and Spongebob lives in a pineapple; magnified, the texture of the fungus resembles the tube sponges covering the seafloor where Spongebob lives; and even the microscopic spores of the fungus appear spongelike. Although the species name was initially rejected by journal editors as "frivolous," the authors persisted and as a result, brought attention to a bizarre new species and to the biodiversity of the world’s forests.
Etymology: squarepantsii is named after the species’ resemblance to the well-known cartoon character Spongebob Squarepants; Spongiforma is genus of sponge-like fungi that was named in 2009 by Desjardin, Manf. Binder, Roekring & Flegel
Type Material: Holotype – University of California at Berkeley.
Type Locality: Lambir Hills National Park, Sarawak, island of Borneo, Malaysia
Reference: Desjardin, D.E., Peay, K.G. & Bruns, T.D. (2011). Spongiforma squarepantsii, a new species of gasteroid bolete from Borneo. Mycologia, 103(5), 1119–1123.