Unfortunately, they were probably up to no good. They are friends on screen, but enemies in real life.
Real-life versions of cartoon best friends SpongeBob Squarepants and Patrick Star were spotted sitting side by side at the bottom of the sea, Live Science reports.
The yellow sponge and the pink starfish next to it were spotted by a remotely operated diving robot on July 27 near New England at a depth of of 6,184 feet (1,885 meters). Marine researchers of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were studying a local mountain range on the seabed, streaming the expedition on Facebook, including footage of the peculiar pair.
When Christopher Mah, a marine biologist at Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History and a sea star expert, saw the footage, he immediately noticed the resemblance with the cartoon characters. “I normally avoid these [references], but wow. Real-life SpongeBob and Patrick,” he wrote on Twitter.
“The sponge is [in] the genus Hertwigia and the sea star is [in] the genus Chondraster,” Mah said. The exact species is unclear, and they could even be brand new to science, he added.
At that point, the official SpongeBob Squarepants Instagram account joined in on the fun and shared an image of the real-life creatures alongside their cartoon counterparts.
Unfortunately though, the comparisons with the cartoon characters end with appearances, as in reality, the two creatures are far from friends. “This species of starfish has been observed feeding on sponges,” Mah said. And it could as well have happened after the camera stopped rolling, he added.
The photo is also interesting for much more scientific reasons: it’s rare to find bright-yellow sponges at this depth. Most deep-sea sponges are white or other neutral colors, which help them blend in with their surroundings, according to Smithsonian Magazine.
Created by animator and marine scientist Stephen Hillenburg in 1999, SpongeBob Squarepants aimed to help educate children about marine life. The TV show is still going strong today.
“I’m happy that the photo has brought delight to so many people,” Mah said. “I hope it also brings awareness to the deep sea as a habitat, which has been threatened by mining and deep-sea fishing.”