- Oh look, Patrick is giving SpongeBob a hug! Wait, what is he-… No! Patrick, stop!
There are few things more exciting than seeing your favorite movie and TV stars in the flesh. The best cartoon fans can usually hope for, though, is some guy in a Mickey Mouse suit at Disneyland.
But for the friends of a certain yellow sponge, we have good news. Science has just proven that SpongeBob SquarePants is real.
We have the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Okeanos Explorer research vessel to thank for the discovery. The ex-Navy ship was sailing above the New England Seamounts in the Atlantic Ocean when it launched a remote submersible for a routine trip to the ocean floor.
Nickelodeon claims that Bikini Bottom is located beneath the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Island. But we now know that’s not true — instead, the town lies by the Retriever Seamount.
The submersible dove to a depth of about 1.2 miles by the seamount when it happened. There, attached to a volcanic rock, was a bright yellow, rectangular sponge.
And he wasn’t alone, either. Next to the sponge was its inseparable, if dimwitted, companion — a pink starfish.
Ladies and gentlemen, we give you — SpongeBob and Patrick.
Making the Announcement
The man to first announce this groundbreaking discovery was Christopher Mah, a research associate at the National Museum of Natural History. He frequently collaborates with NOAA and was, at the time, watching the live video feed from the submersible.
Mah immediately noticed the uncanny resemblance between the deep-sea creatures to the famous cartoon duo. He fired off a tweet where he said he usually avoids pop culture references, but this time he couldn’t resist.
“They’re just a dead ringer for the cartoon characters,” Mah told NPR.
The Twitter crowd soon noticed to picture, much to their delight. One helpful user even helped drive the point home by adding faces and limbs to the picture.
Profiling the Cartoon Stars
But who, scientifically speaking, are our undersea heroes? What kind of creatures are they, now that we’ve finally seen them as they live and breathe?
According to the NOAA, SpongeBob is a yellow glass sponge in the genus Hertwigia. These sponges form their bodies out of biologically secreted silica, or glass, hence the name.
Patrick, on the other hand, is a poraniid starfish in the genus Chondraster. The Poraniidae family of starfishes doesn’t have spines, and they very much resemble your run-of-the-mill cartoon depiction of a starfish.
NOAA’s discovery not only proves without shred of doubt that SpongeBob is a realistic documentary of deep-sea life. It may also advance our understanding of ocean life in general.
“This imagery highlights the fact that our understanding of the diversity in the deep ocean is quite limited,” the NOAA says.
“Case in point, these two animals might actually represent new (i.e., undescribed) species!”
It’s no wonder we thought for so long that SpongeBob was just a cartoon. We just hadn’t discovered all the species depicted in the show.
Oddee is now taking bets on which of the show’s characters will be found next. Personally, this author is putting his money on Squidward.
The Harsh Reality
In all seriousness, though, we will unfortunately have to break your hearts. As much as they resemble SpongeBob and Patrick, the relationship between the sponge and the starfish is not quite as amicable.
In fact, it’s downright hostile. In all likelihood, the real-life Patrick wants to see SpongeBob dead and in his stomach.
“This potentially new species of Chondraster has been observed feeding on sponges,” the NOAA says.
“The one seen here is most likely on its way to devour its yellow ‘companion!’”
Scientists might not have a full grasp of how exactly this new pink star lives, but they can draw generalizations from known species. They might seem slow and passive, but deep-sea starfishes are actually voracious predators.
Some of their favorite foods include sponges and corals. They can devour them in such large amount that their feast ends up permanently changing their local ecosystem.
We’re sorry, SpongeBob. Guess you won’t be making it to the next season.