The characters, a yellow sea sponge with buck teeth and a pinheaded pink starfish, have been on television for more than two decades.
So, when the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Retriever Seamount – a remotely-operated deep-sea vehicle – caught the pair sitting side-by-side in the Atlantic Ocean, it was hard for Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History marine biologist Christopher Mah not to make the comparison.
“I normally avoid these refs..but WOW. REAL LIFE Sponge bob and Patrick! #Okeanos Retriever seamount 1885 m,” Mah tweeted on Tuesday.
“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 on Wednesday. “As a biologist who specializes in sea stars, most depictions of Patrick and SpongeBob are incorrect.”
Mah noted to the publication that the pink Chondraster star was likely hoping to eat the Hertwigia sponge, instead of teaming up to sell chocolate bars to residents of Bikini Bottom.
He later posted an image from the 2013 Okeaanos North Atlantic canyons expedition showing a Chondraster feeding on a sponge.
The ROVs are a part of NOAA’s month-long 2021 North Atlantic Stepping Stones: New England and Corner Rise Seamounts expedition, during which the NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer would gather information about unknown and poorly understood deepwater areas off the East Coast.
“During this expedition, at-sea and shore-based science teams will work together to map the seafloor and observe many targeted sites in this region for the first time,” the agency said of the telepresence-enabled mission. “Remotely operated vehicle (ROV) dives are planned from July 2 to July 28, at depths ranging from 250 to 4,000 meters (820 to 13,124 feet).”
Scientists have been stationed on land and at sea to observe regions including deep-sea coral and sponge communities, fish habitats, areas predicted to have high levels of marine mineral accretion, deep seamount flanks and guyot summits, ridge seamounts, ecosystems of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and other unexplored areas in the New England and Corner Rise Seamounts.
NOAA planned a total of 25 ROV dive missions – both during the day and at night – before wrapping its expedition on Thursday.
The expedition will also contribute to NOAA’s Atlantic Seafloor Partnership for Integrated Research and Exploration (ASPIRE), a longterm, multinational collaborative field program “focused on raising collective knowledge and understanding of the North Atlantic.”