Real-life SpongeBob Square Pants & pal Patrick Star spotted by marine scientist near underwater mountain

REAL-life versions of the cartoon characters SpongeBob Square Pants and Patrick Star have been spotted by an eagle-eyed marine scientist.

Christopher Mah spotted the striking resemblance with the much-loved Nickelodeon characters while operating a remotely operated deep-sea vehicle off the coast of New York City.


The creatures – a yellow sponge and a pink star – were found Tuesday on the side of an underwater mountain called Retriever seamount, 200 miles east of Manhattan and more than a mile down from the Atlantic’s surface.

Mah, a researcher affiliated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said in a tweet: "I normally avoid these refs… but WOW. REAL LIFE SpongeBob and Patrick!"

UNDERWATER EXPEDITION

The deep-sea find was part of an expedition by NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer ship which is sending remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs) to explore underwater habitats and livestream their journeys as they capture images of the creatures that live in the deep.

"I thought it would be funny to make the comparison, which for once was actually kind of comparable to the iconic images/colors of the cartoon characters," Mah told Business Insider via email. "As a biologist who specialises in sea stars, most depictions of Patrick and Spongebob are incorrect."

More than 8,500 species of sponges have been discovered so far with the creatures living in the ocean for around 600million years.

Their shape and texture varies depending on whether they live on soft sand or hard, rocky surfaces.

The box-like sponge which is similar to the cartoon favourite belongs to the genus Hertwigia, according to Mah.

He said though its bright yellow colour surprised him as so far down most things are either orange or white to help them camouflage in the dim light.

The sea star seen in the picture is known as Chondraster and tiny suckers cover its five arms which it uses to move along the ocean floor as well as attach itself to rocks.

Chondraster stars can be dark pink, light pink, or white.

This star's color "was a bright pink that strongly evoked Patrick," Mah said.

Sea stars are carnivorous creatures and once it has attached itself to its prey – oysters, clams and snails – it extends its stomach out through its mouth and uses enzymes to break down and digest it.

Chondraster stars also like to eat sea sponges, Mah said, adding it was likely the star had a tasty snack in mind rather than wanting to be friends.

'ABYSS OF THE OCEAN'

The creatures live "in the true abyss of the ocean," Mah said, "well below the depth we think of where cartoon SpongeBob and Patrick live."

Mah, who works at the Smithsonian Museum, hopes to use the footage from the Okeanos ROVs to identify new star species.

The programme, since 2010, has explored the depths below the Hawaiian Islands, the US Pacific Island territories, the Gulf of Mexico, and "all up and down the East Coast," Mah said.

"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," Mah said.

He added: "Some of it is very alien and in some cases bizarre."

The Retriever seamount is part a chain of over twenty underwater extinct volcanic mountains collectively known as the New England seamounts which extends for more than 1,000 kilometres.

The oldest seamount in the range is Bear seamount which is thought to be between 100-103million years old.

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