— Christopher Mah (@echinoblog) July 27, 2021
Christopher Mah is a marine biologist who works for NOAA and for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. He was aboard NOAAS Okeanos Explorer ship watching a feed from the ROV when he saw a familiar image: Spongebob Squarepants and his best friend Patrick Star! He was quite surprised, as the depictions of the creatures in Spongebob Squarepants aren’t realistic.
Very few of them resemble SpongeBob’s boxy shape.
But the SpongeBob-like sponge in the image, Mah said, belongs to the genus Hertwigia. He was surprised by its bright yellow color, which is unusual for the deep sea. That far down, most things are orange or white to help them camouflage in the dimly lit environment.
The sea star nearby, known as Chondraster, has five arms covered with tiny suckers. Those allow it to creep across the ocean floor and attach itself to rocks and other organisms. Chondraster stars can be dark pink, light pink, or white.
This star’s color “was a bright pink that strongly evoked Patrick,” Mah said.
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