SpongeBob SquarePants and his starfish best friend, Patrick Star, aren’t such cartoonish creatures after all.
According to an image taken by a marine biologist doing remote deep-sea exploration this summer, the famous duo appears to exist in real life. Christopher Mah, a team member on NOAA’s ship Okeanos Explorer, came across a bright yellow sea sponge and pink starfish next to each other on the ocean floor that reminded him of the Nickelodeon cartoon. (However, no pineapple house was found nearby.)
“I normally avoid these refs..but WOW. REAL LIFE Sponge bob and Patrick!” Mah tweeted.
— Christopher Mah (@echinoblog) July 27, 2021
Mah’s tweet eventually went viral with close to 14,000 likes and 178 comments on the original post, lots of reshares and numerous news articles about the funny find.
One Twitter reply included an altered version of the photo that made the sponge and sea star look more like SpongeBob and Patrick.
— M (@mwhdeere) July 30, 2021
Another commenter pointed out, “SpongeBob Square Pants” was created by former marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg, who would have had a good deal of knowledge about marine life like starfish and sponges.
Going by their scientific names, Hertwigia (sponge), and Chondraster (starfish), the sponge and starfish might not have been as friendly as SpongeBob and Patrick were in the cartoon.
“In all likelihood, the reason that starfish is right next to that sponge is because that sponge is just about to be devoured, at least in part,” Mah told NPR. The sponge might have turned bright yellow as a chemical defense against the approaching starfish, too, he added.
Whether the sponge and starfish totally mirror the cartoon characters in “SpongeBob SquarePants” doesn’t entirely matter to Mah, who said he was just glad his tweet made people think more about marine life.
“These are literally animals that the public might not have ever even seen before,” Mah told NPR. “They live at almost a 2,000-meter depth.”