Why do seals get eels stuck in their noses?

It has stumped scientists, and it must be pretty disconcerting to the involved parties, too. On a few occasions, biologists in the Hawaiian Islands have come across an odd phenomenon: endangered monk seals (Monachus schauinslandi) with eels stuck in their noses. “We have no idea why this is suddenly happening,” Charles Littnan, lead scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program, told the Washington Post. “You see some very strange things if you watch nature long enough, and this could end up being one of these little oddities and mysteries of our careers that 40 years from now, we’ll be retired and still questioning quite how this happened.” An image posted by the team on Facebook has attracted more than 2,000 views. Littnan said he first became aware of it happening about two years ago when a colleague asked what the protocol was to deal with such an event. It’s happened three or four times since then, most recently this fall. In each case, the eels were removed and the seals were fine. The eels didn’t fare so well.

Read more in the Washington Post.

Header Image: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program team captured an image of a seal with an eel stuck up its nose. The odd phenomenon rose to attention when the team posted the image on Facebook this month. ©NOAA