How did an eel get stuck up a seal's nose?

Saturday, 08 Dec, 2018

The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program posted a startling pic of the poor pup on Monday, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries provided more details in a post on Wednesday.

Remarkably, it wasn't the first time it's happened either.

They've told the media they really have no idea what's causing the spike in eel-related incidents.

There are only an estimated 632 mature Hawaiian monk seals left in the wild, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Unfortunately, the eel's fate wasn't as lucky.

"Our researchers have observed this phenomenon three or four times now".

"We don't know if this is just some odd statistical anomaly or something we will see more of in the future", the NOAA wrote.

"In every instance of eel-nose, including this one, the researchers have removed the eel successfully". It has since happened enough times for the monk seal program to develop guidelines on how to remove the eels. "The eels, however, did not make it".

And, the phenomenon has only popped up recently. We don't know if this is just some odd statistical anomaly or something we will see more of in the future.

Michelle Barbieri a veterinarian for NOAA's Hawaiin Monk Seal Research Program working with Hawaiian monk seals
Michelle Barbieri a veterinarian for NOAA's Hawaiin Monk Seal Research Program working with Hawaiian monk seals

Surprisingly, experts say this situation is not that uncommon.

Researchers recorded a record number of seal pups born on the main Hawaiian islands this year.

This is up significantly from the previous record set in 2013, when 21 pups were born.

Researchers offered two hypotheses for the natural occurrence. Honestly, despite not being a seal and not having an eel now lodged up my schnozz, I can truly empathise.

Either way, all can agree it doesn't look comfortable.

One theory is that, because seals forage for food by shoving their noses into rock pools and coral reefs, eels they encounter could try and defend themselves by plunging into the seals' noses. "They are looking for prey that likes to hide, like eels,".

In this case, a relatively small part of the eel is in the nose, which "leads me to thinking that the eel forced itself in while trying to escape", Littnan said.

Or seals could be swallowing the eels and then regurgitating them.

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