KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 3 ― Marine researchers spotted the real-life versions of Nickelodeon’s famed duo SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Star on a recent deep dive.
Only it wasn’t the pineapple under the sea at Bikini Bottom but somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean seabed.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) scientists were controlling a remotely operated vehicle when they came across the square-shaped yellow sponge and a five-pointed pink sea star at the Retriever Seamount off the coast of New England last week at a depth of 1,885 metres, Live Science reported.
Images of the sea sponge and star were shared by NOAA as part of a Facebook livestream.
The Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History marine biologist Christopher Mah instantly thought of the popular Nickelodeon characters when he saw the images.
“I normally avoid these (references), but wow. Real-life SpongeBob and Patrick,” tweeted Mah, a sea stars expert.
— Christopher Mah (@echinoblog) July 27, 2021
Mah told Live Science he made the comparison as soon as he saw them on video.
The images quickly made the rounds on social media and even SpongeBob Squarepants’ official Instagram account chimed in to share an image of the cartoon characters alongside their real-life versions.
Mah said the scientific name for the sponge is Hertwigia and the starfish is Chondraster, adding that the exact species is unclear and they could even be brand new to science.
The Smithsonian Magazine said the find was interesting to scientists because bright-yellow sponges are rarely found at this depth and that most deep-sea sponges are either white or neutral-coloured.
Although the Nickelodeon icons are best friends in the cartoon, the same can’t be said for their real-life counterparts.
Despite appearing to be hanging out in the photo, the two creatures don’t get along.
“This species of starfish has been observed feeding on sponges,” Mah said.
Created by marine scientist and animator Stephen Hillenburg to help children learn about marine life, SpongeBob Squarepants premiered in 1999 and remains a hit today.
“I’m happy that the photo has brought delight to so many people,” Mah said.
“I hope it also brings awareness to the deep sea as a habitat, which has been threatened by mining and deep-sea fishing.”