NOAA Ocean Exploration
They didn't find a pineapple under the sea, but ocean researchers did find a real-life version of SpongeBob SquarePants and his buddy Patrick Star during a July 27 dip in the Atlantic Ocean.
According to Live Science, during a recent survey of the Atlantic Ocean, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer, a federally-funded ocean research vessel, sent a submersible over 6,000-feet deep to investigate the Retriever Seamount off the coast of New England.
During its journey, the remotely-operated submersible sent back a live video feed of what it was filming to NOAA, which shared sections of the live stream to Facebook. Christopher Mah, a starfish expert and National Museum of Natural History research associate who frequently collaborates with NOAA, was among the Facebook stream's viewers. He spotted a peculiar pair on the feed — a neon yellow sea sponge and bright pink starfish side-by-side, reports NPR.
"They're just a dead ringer for the cartoon characters," Mah told the outlet, referring to SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Star, the best friend leads of Nickelodeon's popular animated show SpongeBob SquarePants.
"I normally avoid these refs..but WOW. REAL LIFE Sponge bob and Patrick! #Okeanos Retriever seamount 1885 m," Mah posted on Twitter, along with a screenshot of the famous characters' real-life doppelgangers.
While it's fun to think of these real underwater creatures — a genus Hertwigia sponge and genus Chondraster sea star, Mah told Live Science — palling around like their cartoon counterparts, Mah says the reality of the situation is likely a bit darker.
"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," the expert told NPR, noting that sea stars are known to feast on sponges not befriend them.