Hey, Look Who NOAA Just Found in the Ocean

Expedition turns up real-life counterparts to SpongeBob and Patrick Star
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2021 8:37 AM CDT
Updated Aug 7, 2021 7:00 AM CDT
These Two Look Familiar?
   (NOAA/Christopher Mah)

A marine biologist with the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History did a double-take while reviewing footage from a deep-sea drone. There, on the ocean floor, sat the real-life doppelgangers for SpongeBob SquarePants and his pal Patrick Star, reports Smithsonian. "I normally avoid these (references)..but WOW," tweeted Christopher Mah. Scientifically speaking, Mah spotted a yellow sea sponge (sans pants) in the genus Hertwigia and a red sea star in the genus Chondraster, per Live Science. Both were spotted during an expedition of the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration called Atlantic Stepping Stones to better map the ocean floor off the East Coast. For the record, the sponge and star were hanging out on an underwater mountain called the Retriever Seamount, roughly 200 miles off of New York City, notes Insider.

The sponge is interesting beyond being a celebrity look-alike. It's rare for such a brightly colored sponge to be seen so deep, notes Mah, adding that sponges typically have more neutral colors at this level to better blend in with their surroundings. The Stepping Stones expedition, which made use of remotely operated vehicles from the research vessel Okeanos Explorer, ran through the month of July and has now wrapped up. But its unusual sighting, which even caught the attention of the Nickelodeon show, will live on. Alas, Mah relays one last scientific reality that might put a relatively creepy damper on things. "This species of starfish has been observed feeding on sponges," he tells Live Science. Meaning it's possible the star was moving in for a snack when the image was recorded. (The creator of the fictional SpongeBob died a few years ago of ALS.)

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