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Twitter Goes Wild Over ‘SpongeBob’ Discovery

The internet burst with joy on Saturday after a deep-sea marine biologist tweeted a picture of a yellow sea sponge and an orange sea star hanging out next to each other in the dark ocean depths.

Twitter/@echinoblog

“*Laugh* I normally avoid these refs..but WOW. REAL LIFE SpongeBob and Patrick! #Okeanos Retriever seamount 1885 m,” Marine biologist Christopher Mah wrote on Twitter. “Scientific names: Hertwigia (sponge) and Chondraster (starfish) #Okeanos.”

Mah, who studies echinoderms – a type of invertebrate that includes sea cucumbers, sea urchins, and sea stars – spotted the pair perched on a rock on a submerged mountain called Retriever Seamount, which is located 1,885 meters – roughly a mile – beneath the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. They were observed via a submersible launched from the Okeanos Explorer, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) research vessel.

Mah instantly noticed the sponge’s and star’s uncanny resemblances to SpongeBob Squarepants and his best friend Patrick Star, two beloved animated characters who live in a fictional underwater neighborhood called Bikini Bottom.

“They’re just a dead ringer for the cartoon characters,” Mah told National Public Radio in an interview. But, Mah pointed out, the animals are not friends.

“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 explained. “The reality is a little crueler than perhaps a cartoon would suggest,” he added, although he also said it was possible that the sponge had turned itself yellow to ward off the predatory star.

Mah’s post exploded shortly after he shared the image on Tuesday.

The reactions are below:

Some users even added the duo’s faces to the creatures:

When NPR asked if the “fuss” generated online excited him, Mah replied that anything that piques the public’s interest in science is a good thing. “These are literally animals that the public might not have ever even seen before. They live at almost a 2,000-meter depth,” he said.

“They’re like, ‘Oh, my God, this is perfect. This is great. I can’t believe this is true,'” Mah said of the buzz that his find sparked. “So if we can bring positivity and we can make people happy by showing them nature — well, that’s what nature has always done for us before.”



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