The real-life versions of SpongeBob SquarePants and Patrick Star have been spotted hanging out under the sea.
Marine scientist Christopher Mah, who works at the Smithsonian Museum, discovered the yellow sea sponge and pink sea star that have an uncanny resemblance to the Nickolodoeon icons.
Revealing his discovery, he tweeted: “I normally avoid these refs… but WOW. REAL-LIFE SpongeBob and Patrick!”
Mah was remotely operating a deep-sea vehicle as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s latest deep-sea expedition, which involved sending the Okeanos ROVs one mile below the Atlantic Ocean’s surface to explore submarine habitats – live-streaming the journey.
The real-life versions of the animated comedy duo were spotted on an underwater mountain called Retriever seamount, 200 miles east of New York City.
— Christopher Mah (@echinoblog) July 27, 2021
Speaking to Insider via email, Mah said: “I thought it would be funny to make the comparison, which for once was actually kind of comparable to the iconic images/colours of the cartoon characters.
“As a biologist who specializes in sea stars, most depictions of Patrick and Spongebob are incorrect.”
Mah went on to say that the square-shaped sea sponge belongs to the genus Hertwigia and that its bright yellow colour is extremely unusual for things living in the deep sea – most are orange or white in colour to help them camouflage.
The Patrick lookalike is known as Chondraster, and they are usually dark pink, light pink or white in colour.
This particular star “was a bright pink that strongly evoked Patrick,” said Mah.
It’s amusing to note that unlike the budding friendship of the beloved cartoon characters, in real life, sea sponges are prey for the Chondraster.
"Sea sponges, in fact, are a preferred menu item for Chondraster stars. So the pink Patrick-like creature scooting close to the sponge likely had food, not friendship, in mind." 👀👀 https://t.co/uHVv8dRtKp
— NickALive!: Nickelodeon News & Videos #ForAllFans (@DailyNickNews) July 29, 2021
It’s likely then that not long after the footage was taken, the real-life SpongeBob met its demise.
Mah added that the creatures live “in the true abyss of the ocean, well below the depth we think of where cartoon SpongeBob and Patrick live.”
He hopes that the recent footage will help him to discover new species of stars.
Mah’s fellow researchers have been exploring the depths of the ocean below the Hawaiian islands, the US Pacific Island territories, and the Gulf of Mexico since 2010.
He continued: “We have investigated up to 4,600-meter depths [15,000 feet, or almost 3 miles] and seen a wide range of never-before-seen ocean life, including huge deep-sea corals, many deep-sea fish, starfishes, sponges of which many are undescribed species and thus new to science,
“Some of it is very alien and in some cases bizarre.”
Pretty damn cool, right?